Monday, 30 June 2014

Sudan Stocktake: The British

Like many of you, the summer has been playing havoc with hobby time, with the current football World Cup having me assembling minis in front of the choice games on TV. No bad thing really, I can do with a break every so often. I've been particularly enjoying building up some Perry Afrikakorps plastics, a lovely lovely boxed set that go together so well. I've also just finished a fairly sizeable project that have been cluttering the painting table for months - more to show on that once I've taken the camera out later in the week.

So, after a short interlude from this series to paint up a few more odds and ends, I can bring you Her Majesty's forces. The field force assembles:

The Artillery Park - screw gun and rocket trough

King's Royal Rifle Corps and Indian Infantry

The Naval brigade, Gardner gun and Royal Marine Light Infantry

The cavalry wing: 10th Hussars and Mounted Infantry

Miscellaneous civilians and hangers on. 

Not a bad force all in all - really pleased with how each and every unit has come out so far, these have definitely been some of my best painting for years. There are just two things I really must finish off: a third Command stand and a vignette of standing horses for the Mounted Infantry. The command stand is on the painting table now. Both being small bits, they should be done in no time (relatively), so I'm comfortable picking one of the next club nights to take it all up to Wyvern and put a game of Black Powder on. All this work and I'll finally get get it all out, full painted and based. Yay!

Of course, the lead mountain isn't empty: in the box to be assembled are another unit of British Infantry and one of Highlanders and a 7lb artillery piece. Oh, and I shouldn't forget the steamer - I've fun plans for that.

Plenty to be getting on with, though I might take a break from the Sudan soon to attend to some other projects. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Basing the Phyllion way - a Step by Step

A couple of people have commented on my basing for my Sudan collection and Belgian over on LAF asked if I could whip up a tutorial. I claim absolutely no expertise in the myriad ways that one might base miniatures - my method has evolved from very basic goblin green and flock of the 1990s into a rather  time-consuming process. But it works for me. 

First things, I always paint the bases first. I just cannot get on with doing things the other way around - I inevitably splatter the painted miniature in sand/glue/paint and get frustrated that they need a touch-up. I do acknowledge that others do wonderful things painting minis first and then basing them, particularly multi-based figures, vignettes or Impetus stands. I'll do it for gun crews or anything else where painting the miniatures unbased is a no-brainer, but not for the rank and file. This is one of the main reasons I use single basing and sabot trays for most of my forces.

This is my process, using some bases of animals to illustrate. Optional steps are marked with a '*'. 

Step 1 - Stick mini to the base

A bit of an obvious one. I use pva glue rather than superglue now, partly on Simon Miller's 'recommendation' and partly as my base sizes and shapes have evolved over the years, so the chances of me wanting to re-base things is fairly high. Superglue is the bane of rebasing. In fact, this chap is being requisitioned as a goatherd so is being re-based with his flock.

Wait a good few hours for the white glue to dry. 

Step 2 - A bit of filler*

I often lay down some filler to make a smoother gradient between the plastic/mdf base and miniatures' integral base. I've found this is particularly important when:
-the miniature has a particularly thick integral base
-I'm using a finer grade of sand, which I do for desert bases
-I've made a scenic or multi-layered base

This doesn't take long and if the miniature isn't painted, you don't need to worry too much about neatness - errors can just be nudged off with a scalpel. 
Leave to dry a few hours. 

Step 3 - Choose your sand

As well as using different base colours and foliage for different forces/collections and to represent different regions, I don't always use the same grade of sand. My current repertoire has two main mixed grades: 
-sieved sharp sand, dried out in the oven, with some small rocks from the sieved sand added (lower left)
-a medium hobby talus with some of the same small rocks added

My Sudan miniatures use a sprinkling of the medium talus but mostly the fine sand. For a temperate climate, I usually use the talus with just a little sand. 

I've also got a box of small rocks and a box of small pieces of washed garden slate, so I can manually add different kinds of rocks. 

Step 4 - Rocks and sprinkled talus 

Slather the base in white glue. Place rocks small or larger as  appropriate - I try to make sure 1 in 3 infantrymen and most larger bases have some on to add interest. Then take a pinch of the talus and sprinkle it on. I find this adds greater texture than just using sand and doing it in two stages ensures a good distribution. Just mixing the grades of sand would make the tub settle into layers and you wouldn't get the same end result.

Step 5 - Give it a dunk

Immediately after and while the white glue is still wet, dunk the base into the sand. Leave it in the tub for a few minutes so the glue can set a little. Then fish the base out and brush off any offending sand from the miniatures' feet and legs (the back of a scalpel is good for this) and run a finger around the base edge to give a nice even finish. Leave to dry fully.

Step 6 - Dunk it again*

Repeat step 5, particularly if here are any bare areas, or you skipped step 2 and the integral base is noticeable. Leave to dry.

Step 7 - Scenic cement*

This stuff has its critics, but I quite like it. I drop it on using a pipette to seal the sand together. I've found it works wonders at minimising the amount lost while painting. What I found infuriating before I added this stage was that if I was basing and painting something at the same time, my work area would get covered in loose sand. Using scenic cement means almost none comes off.

I've marked it optional as  you could just hide any bare areas with flock or tufts. 

Step 8 - Basecoat

The edges get a coat of white (an old GW Basecoat paint that I use for almost nothing else), particularly for minis based on 2ps. Then I do two coats of watered Vallejo Earth. Watering it down is essential to let it run into the crevices and two coats means you get a more consistent colour. These take a while to dry out fully

Step 9 - Highlights

After two highlights

Fully highlighted - alas the feet!

Highlights are Vallejo Earth mixed with Vallejo Buff - about 3 highlights all the way to buff. Dry brush these on, being sure to highlight between the minis' legs (no worries about mistakes - they usually aren't painted yet). I keep the lightest highlights around the edge of the base, to give a shadow effect under the miniatures. The grade of sand will be significant for the result - with finer sand you get a much lighter effect as the highlights are more prominent.

The final highlight, usually done last after the miniature is painted is buff with a touch of white added - doing it last tidies up any mistakes from painting the miniature.

Step 10 - Paint the miniature

Not covered by this tutorial!

Step 11 - Flock and Tufts

This is the go-to selection for my Sudan miniatures - three MiniNatur tufts in two sizes and three colours, plus some 'African grass' static grass from an eBay seller. The latter is a bit more savannah than dead grass that I wanted but adds a bit of colour so I've stuck with it.

Sudan being quite arid, I probably use too much static grass and tufts on the bases. But I find each minis needs something to set the base off. I tend to put 1-2 patches on each base, using a mixture of the above. I quite like adding tufts beside or on top of the static grass areas to soften them or use pairs of tufts together. Placement-wise, look for areas where there are mistakes (not enough sand or over-heavy highlights), or where plants might naturally grow - coming out beside rocks and crevices etc. Cavalry and other larger bases usually get 3 larger areas, each made up of multiple tufts or tufts on the static grass.

The Final Result

Here we are - a native goatherd and his flock:

Hopefully some of you have found this useful!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Operation Market Larden 2 (Part 2 - Verdun)

For my afternoon game at Operation Market Larden on Saturday, I had the opportunity to play Sidney Roundwood's outstanding Verdun 1916: Operation Gericht, its second outing after its debut at Partizan. I suspect I was quite fortunate to have responded to the survey quick enough to take one of the commands. I took on the role of Fahrnich Joachim Vogel, of the 157th Reserve Infantry Regiment. Fellow Wyvern regular Bob took Leutenant Ulrich Bek, with our Strosstruppen assaulting the French poilu commanded by Ralph and Paul.

Our briefing material contained an aerial reconnaissance image of the terrain facing us:

Our objective: capture the ruined village of Fleury at all costs, to open up the route to Fort Souville and shatter French resistance at Verdun. Clearing the forest of Le Bois de Guise was a minor objective. We settled on an unconventional plan to surge past Le Bois de Guise, hoping to make quicker time by circumventing any French defenders there. Sidney described this as 'bold', but I suspect he was being polite.

With two support options to choose, Bob and I took some German pioneers, concerned about French wire teams disrupting our rapid advance, and after much debate we settled on an inspiring speech to improve morale from the incessant privations of Verdun. This gave our troops a small advantage in close assault, until we lost an assault.

The daunting view from the German lines - surely our men would be too exposed?

The tense strosstruppen assemble in the cratered fields of Verdun.

As they surge forwards, French defenders pick out targets, the entrenched machine guns spitting fire. German gunners and granatenwerfer respond.

Our elite troops take no pause and surge forwards - to falter means death...

Right on time, the German artillery bombardment rains down...

...while our troops pass unscathed over the cratered landscape, relieved that the German gunners' aim is true. Could anything survive such a barrage?

As the lead infantry approach the French trenches, they pause. Men fall. Where are their commanders? While the German fire support has managed to neutralise one machinegun, SOS fire from the French soixante-quinze guns rains down over their heads. It is mercifully ineffective. Still, our brave Strosstruppen are taking murderous fire and the assault risks faltering at a critical moment.

Poilu pour forwards to reinforce the village - surely seizing this is too much to ask?

Relief! The pre-arranged German barrage recommences, with French gunners taking the best shelter they can from the savage bombardment.

This was our chance chance - Forwards! Forwards! Pioneers take the lead, with Ulrich Bek urging them on. Joachim Vogel follows, allowing no man to linger over this briefest opportunity.

The barrage lifts, dazed Poilu lifting themselves from the landscape - new craters piled on top of old. Are the assault troops close enough to engage the French can open up on them again?

Almost there - charge! The French counter-attack, hoping to fling the handful of surviving Strosstruppen back before they reach their objective. German stick grenades rain down and a fierce melee ensues.

Joachim Vogel rallies his men, desperately mustering a second wave, but is it too late in the day?

The brave Poilu waver and are flung back, pioneers surging forwards in their wake

Victory! Fleury is taken!

We gambled it all on taking the village and with (literally) the last turn of the card, by the skin of our teeth, the strosstruppen pulled it off. With dusk falling (and the pub calling), there is no time for a French counter-attack. They fall back and the route to Fort Souville is open.

All in all, one of the most exciting wargames I've played in many years, Sidney put on a stonking game. The visuals were made by his exceptionally painted collection of miniatures and oh so fittingly bleak terrain (with comment of the day being "grey on grey, a bit difficult to photograph really")

But what really made the day was the steady build-up of background information over the preceding week, the propaganda of the Zuricher Zeitung with the latest news from the front lines. Though it was a one-off game, Sidney managed to make it feel like the culmination of a campaign, with our pre-game decisions influenced by the propaganda he fed us. Those decisions of when to time the bombardment and how best to support our ragged troops directly influenced the outcome of the game. I could only have wished for more time to play through a French counter-attack - it seemed to cruel to have to end the French resistance so abruptly. Bravo Sidney anmd thanks once again to you and the Bob, Paul and Ralph who made the afternoon such an experience.

As for Fahnrich Joachim Vogel, survival and a modicum of fame in Weimar Berlin. Memories of those days in Verdun providing ample inspiration for bleak impressionistic works. At least something good came of his war, for a few years, at least...

Rolling your post-war years, one last neat touch

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Operation Market Larden 2014 (part 1)

Yesterday, Wyvern Wargamers hosted gentlemen from all across the country for the second iteration of "Operation Market Larden", a celebration of all things Too Fat Lardies. Once again, the day offered a range of quite excellent participation games and the pleasurable company of like-minded fellows.

A relatively early start ensured there was enough time for a good long morning and afternoon session and Ade carefully marshalled/herded the 40-or-so of us into the games that they had signed up for. And what a range of games on offer, there was something for everyone (as long as you like Lard).

I was on hand to roll some dice with the camera in tow to catch the action, though sadly I didn't get photos of every game.

Saving Mrs Ryan - Sharp Practice in the Indian Mutiny - 28mm
(Simon Walker)

A quite exceptional board with beautifully painted miniatures and everyone involved seemed to be having fun, be they the British and their loyal subjects, the rebellious mutineers or local Badmash militia. I was quite jealous I didn't get to play this one!

Benouville - Chain of Command WWII - 15mm
(Ade Deacon, of Wyvern Wargamers)

Which you can read much more about on Ade's blog here. Ade put a phenomenal amount of effort in to properly research the engagement and terrain. Having had the good fortune of play-testing it through ,I can attest to it being great fun to play.

Bloody Omaha - I Aint Been Shot Mum WWII 15mm
(Mike Whitaker of Peterborough Wargames Club)

Huge table and daunting prospect for the Allies - but I hear they were succesful across the two sessions

Sharp Practice in the Peninsular - 28mm 
(J. Ibbotson)

Another lovely setup, with exceptionally painted miniatures and impressive Grand Manner buildings.

For my morning session, I had the pleasure of playing Rich Clarke's own Le Port scenario that he'd built for Salute 2014. Two German and two British players, umpired by Rich himself.

Le Port - Chain of Command WWII - 28mm 
(Richard Clarke)

Town's all quiet

German officer nips out for his morning bread

The scenario had my and Robert's Germans desperately trying to hold off the British paratroopers. Things looked pretty awful when the paras, played with elan, were close to overrunning the German jump-off points before our delayed troops had even trurned up! (for which a comedically bad series of Command rolls was blamed)

Paras make a long flanking maneuver around pastel pink cottage

With Rich's hasty *ahem*revision to the scenario, the Germans trickled onto the table just  in time to shore up their line and blunt the swarming paras' advance. We were able to build a numerical advantage on the German left flank to turn the Paras back.

Numerical advantage on the German left flank

On the right flank, commanded by myself, things were less rosy. With one jump-off taken uncontested, a hastily deployed section found itself pinned in beige-cottage-without-enough-windows by the Para fire support team. With the MG42 down, the remnants of the section cowered in the loft. The paras pushed into the ground floor and the game was up. but who am I to disregard a chance for a glorious but futile charge - three handgranaten down the stairs followed by a bloody assault. The result: merely an honourable end for the Germans, with a lone survivor surrendering to the paras that had survived the blasts. 

Less so on the right...

But the paras were held off for long enough - more German reinforcements pushed on to hold the line, with the Paras unable to sustain the fight. Apparently, we had done quite well to hold the line against such aggressively played paras. 

The battle for Le Port raged on into the afternoon session, with new players picking up a continuation of the scenario as the German counter-attack starts for real. Le Port seemed to be taking quite some damage in the heavy fighting, as evidenced by this dramatically blazing cottage:

I missed photos of:
Tin Star Gunfight (G. Bond)
The Bridge (N. Overland)
Kiss Me Hardy (N. Skinner)

And to sweeten the day, it has become tradition for Wyvern to lay on some Lardies-themed cupcakes - so impressively decorated and tasty to boot! 

Rich Clarke appears entirely disinterested in Ade's cupcakes offerings

As the gaming wound down to a close, the attendees found their way into Evesham for a few beers and a curry - a fine way to end a hard day's gaming. Thanks again to Ade and the rest for putting on such a smashing day. Roll on OML3 next year!

Update: Part 2 now up