Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Count for the Year

Well it is the last day of the 2014 and I have finished the year by making four small Masai houses for the WWI in East Africa. This is part of a planned Boma that I hope to have finished by the time I go back to work on 5 January.

With those four buildings, 15 Franco-Prussian French infantry and nine Austro-Prussian Austrian hussars completed in the last couple of days (the latter two items had been sitting around in a partly finished state for some months), it is time to tally up all of the hobby work for the year, and what a busy year it has been - possibly the busiest for ten years or more.

Since my last tally in July, the count of new items completed is:

Ten bases of woods, around 5.6 metres of hedges, a large farm house, 4 x Masai huts, 4 x kopjes, 37 x British Crimean guardsmen, 58 x Crimean Highland infantrymen 4 x Crimean mounted officers, two Crimean British guns and 8 crew, 72 x Russian Crimean infantry, 33 Franco-Prussian French Infantry, 9 Austro-Prussian War Austrian hussars, 2 x scratch built Krupp 4.7inch howitzers, 20 x gabions, 4 x Russo-Japanese Russian field guns (each with five crew), 6 x Russo-Japanese Japanese field guns (each with three crew).

This gives a grand total for the year of:

464 foot figures
45 mounted figures
23 guns or HMG models
16 scratch built vehicles or weapons
37 scratch built buildings
28 1:600 scale ships (complete with that cursed rigging)
64 pieces of terrain
5.6 meters of hedges

Thursday, 25 December 2014

First Crimean Russian Infantry Completed

On Christmas Eve I completed the first of my Crimean Russians. Seventy two figures that make up the Azov Regiment. I must say that Russians are remarkably easy to paint, since the are all in greatcoat, but they become a bit monotonous when there are 72 to paint. The next purchase will be the first two battlions of the next Russian regiment, as well as a battalion of French line infantry and one of chasseurs to get some variety. Then the order after that will complete both the Russian and French line regiments.

By then I am hoping that Tsuba miniatures will have the Japanese cavalry ready for purchase, and I can finish the Russo-Japanese arimies.

Two battalions of the regiment

The whole regiment in column of battalions, two battalions abreast

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Russian Napoleonic Command

Recently saw on fellow Kiwi wargamer Roly Hermans' blog, "Dressing the Lines", his article about the Foundry British and French Napoleonic command groups (https://arteis.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/napoleon-and-wellington-with-their-respective-staffs/) and I was reminded that I had a set of the Perry Russian Borodino command set that I bought on a whim a couple of years back, and were now stacked away in a box somewhere, painted but not based.

So since I am waiting for my order of Russian Crimean infantry to arrive, I thought that it was time I based it up. After a brief search I found the set of eight figures in a box with some other forgotten friends and set about sorting out the base. Here is the result (sorry the photos could be better).

Front and centre is, of course, Kutuzov, with his map spread before him on a drum. To the right of him following the general's pointing finger, is the Artillery Chief, General Koutaissov, while the cavalry commander, General Ouvarov looks on.

In the group below Quartermaster Colonel Toll discusses something with the British observer General Wilson, watched by General Osterman-Tolstoy. 

While below General Barclay de Tolly is pointing out to something to Kutuzov's Chief of Staff, General Yermolov.

Who knows, this might even inspire me to build that Russian Napoleonic army I have been thinking of.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

And now for something a little different...

It is not unusual for me to have several projects on the go at once. And at this point of time I have three on the go.

• the Crimean War project
• the Russo-Japanese War project
• the WWI in East Africa project.

Crimea is on hold at present...at least until the end of the month.

The Russo-Japanese War project is progressing. I have just finished four new Russian guns and crews. Six more Japanese guns have arrived and waiting assembly, with another six to order early next year.

The Russian guns

As for the WWI in East Africa project, well the unit of Sikh infantry is based, but no other figures are in the pipeline until next year. But to keep the project in focus I have decided to make the scenery for this period the summer project. The plan is to make an African village, a plantation house and some kopjes. It is the last item I have decided to attack first.

Kopjes are common sights in East Africa. They are areas of limestone that rise abruptly out of an eroded plain. Often a refuge for wildlife from wildfires and other natural events they are frequently surrounded by clumps of vegitation. They make an interesting feature for an East African terrain. I have decided to make four of these: one large, one small and two of medium size.

I looked at using some natural stones - there are some really nice sized and shaped ones on the temporary gravel carpark next to where I work. But then I changed my mind, in part because the carpark is in full view of the other inhabitants of my office and although they probably already doubt my sanity, I don't really want to give them more ammunition by seeing me collect stones from the carpark, and in part because natural stone would make them quite heavy. Instead I am going to make them from polystyrene and describe the construction of the small one here.

The first step is to cut a piece from a sheet of 25mm thick polystyrene about 130mm square. I then cut off the corners, to make a rather irregular octagon. I keep the corner pieces for use in building up fhe rocky centre of the kopje.

Next is to carve the slope of the hill. I want part of one face to have a steep edge to it, but the rest are to slope more gently towards an area with a diameter of perhaps 70mm in the centre of the hill.

Now to work on the rocks that will jut from the ground. On this one I want a series of columular formations that rise at odd angles, so I cut a strip of polystyrene that is 25mm by 25mm and about 120mm long. I then cut several irregular lengths from that and glue them in varuous configurations to the hill. To provide some varying shapes I add some of the triangular off-cuts. At this point I am not too concerned about getting anything like a rock shape, just the general layout of the rocks. I leave the glue to dry overnight.

The offcuts

Next day, with the glue dry, I carve the blocks of polystrene into rock shapes, rounding out the square edges and cutting into the surface of the blocks to create fissures.

When I have the shapes I want I get out the PVA glue and one at a time I coat the rocks with glue and then press toilet paper or klenex over the form. I then coat that tissue with more PVA and brush it against the polystyrene. The tissue will wrinkle and bunch to create an irregular surface. If I don't get enough texture, I add more tissue and glue. When all of the rock surface is covered I leave it to dry overnight.

Next day I coat the non-rock surface of the hill with PVA and cover the glue with a coarse builder's sand and let it dry. I add some kitty litter as smaller rocks that have fallen away from the main rock formations.

With the sand dry I undercoated whole piece with black. I prefer to use a black underciat on terrain because it is easier to get depth into the model. When that dried I started on the main painting, drybrushing some terracotta, toned with a touch of red over the sand because I wanted the soil colour to be fairly red, remembering the colour of the soil during my time in Tanzania. The rocks themselves were painted grey, starting with a fairly dark hue and then lightening to an almost white highlight.

I then moved on to the final touches. I added areas of grass flock on the slopes, then clumps of Woodland Scenics foliage around the base of the rocks and in isolated patches around the base. I added a few bushes and a couple of logs. Made from twigs from the garden. And it is done.

Below is the finished product together with one of the medium kopjes (the last two images).

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Russo-Japanese War Game

Today we played a Russo-Japanese War game.

The scenario saw a single Japanese infantry regiment and two machine guns from Second Army holding a walled village on a large island in the middle of a river. A second regiment, with three field batteries, is posted on the south bank. The river is crossed by one bridge on the southern side of the island and two on the north. The river can be crossed at any point, but crossing at unbridged places will take two full turns and the unit that had crossed will be ruled disrupted for the whole of the turn after it crosses to the opposite bank.

At dawn the Russians made a surprise attack, with a barrage from six batteries falling on the southern bridge, destroying the crossing. Two Russian infantry divisions then moved to attack the isolated Japanese contingent. Immediately Japanese called up the remainder of Second Army, two and a half infantry divisions, 15 batteries and ten machine guns. The Japanese orders to secure the island then move across to the northern bank and establishing themselves on the heights there.

The game started with the first Russian division stepping off and quickly securing the edge if the river, while their artillery hammered the Japanese in the village. When the first Russians formed up into a march column to cross one of the bridges they were caught by Japanese machine gun fire and suffered badly. They stumbled back into line only to be driven further back by Japanese gun fire.

A Russian regiment crosses at the bridge and is then pinned down

At the other bridge a second Russian regiment formed march column and rushed across, but was quickly pinned down on the far bank by Japanese gun fire. For the next three turns this regiment was pinned down there. These two efforts ended the Russian attempts to cross the the bridges. The two remaining Russian regiments of the lead division, with the machine guns in support, forded the river, while the second Russian (Siberian) Division  moved up and dug in along the river bank.

Thr Siberians secure the river bank

In the centre of the table the single Japanese regiment crossed the river in support of regiment in the town. But no sooner had it deployed than it was caught by Russian machine guns and massed artillery and was destroyed. The regiment in the town soon met a similar fate.

The first Japanese reinforcements cross the river

The Guards division surges across the river followed by 2nd Division (below)

The reinforcing Japanese divisions had arrived and struggled across the river to the island. They soon had the two Russian regiments that had succeeded in crossing the river in trouble, driving one back and dispersing the other. Soon the only Russians across the river was the regiment that was pinned down near the bridge and two machine guns. This entire force took shelter in a wood.

The Japanese advance

The Japanese were now advancing in force. The Guards and 2nd Divisions pushed their way forward in a great mass under cover of their guns. The Russians were looking less and less likely to hold their line under the unrelenting pressure and conceded the fight.

The armies were 28mm. All of the infantry figures were Tsuba Miniatures, the machine guns and artillery were Redoubt.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

All quiet on the painting front

I haven't painted a thing since I finished the Crimean Highlanders. Instead I have been working on a couple of scratch built 4.7inch guns for the Russo-Japanese armies and reorganising all of the armies from their shabby cardboard boxes in to new plastic trays, while waiting for the arrival of some Russo-Japanese field guns (and given the past record of this supplier that may be four or five weeks away).

What is interesting about the reorganising is the realisation of just how many figures I have. By far the largest collection is the American Civil War, but a very close second is the Austro-Prussian collection, of which I have Austrian, Prussian and Italian armies. These armies haven't seen the light of day since October 2012, so opening the boxes was like being reacquainted with old friends.

I also dug out images from those games and have included them here.

This first batch, from 2008, was from an Austro-Italian game set in Venetia.
An Austrian brigade advancing
Italian Cavalry, light cavalry on the right, heavy on the left and lancers to the rear 
Italian troops occupy a village
An Italian battery supported by a battalion of Bersagleri

Italian infantry and cavalry pass through the village

This next batch, from 2012, with the Austrians facing thre Prussians, are from a game set in Bohemia.
The Austrian advance
Austrian hussars clash with Prussian cuirassiers and uhlans
An Austrian heavy cavalry brigade advances
Austrian infantry pass a farm
The Austrians attack
The Prussians counter attack

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Crimean Army

Well the last batch of figures for the British army in the Crimea has been painted. This includes the Highland Brigade (the 42nd, 79th and 93rd Regiments), two guns and their crew, and the divisional command base - the Duke of Cambridge and a highland colonel.

I wouldn't say they were my best painting, I struggled with the socks and the checked effect on the bonnets, but based up and formed in lines they look mighty impressive. 
Sir Colin Cambell leads the Black Watch forward
The Highland Brigade in column of battalions (front to back the 42nd, the 93rd and the 79th)
The Duke of Cambridge and his ADC
The Artillery

Together with the Brigade of Guards, the Highland Brigade make up the First Division from the Battle of the Alma. 

The Crimean army will go on hold for a month or two while I build up some more Russo-Japanese artillery. I need another twelve Japanese guns (some of which will need to be scratch built) and another four Russian. I also want to add some cavalry, mounted and dismounted, to both of those armies.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Reminiscing - Wargames Holíday Centre 1986

In 1986, on my first visit to the UK and Europe, I spent a week at Peter Gilder's Wargames Holiday Centre. Just the other day I was cleaning up some old photos and I found the shots I had taken during that week 29 years ago. All of the pictures were seriously under exposed, but I scanned them and did a bit of PhotoShop work to try an clean them up. They brought back a whole batch of memories about that week and inspired this post.

Memories are a little hazy now, but I remember arriving in Scarborough on the afternoon of the Sunday and meeting up with the other attendees at dinner. I can recall most of the people there. There was one older chap, called Bob, a young chap from Bradford, three blokes from London and two others. After dinner Peter Gilder met us and we all drove in the Centre's minibus to the holiday centre, where for the  first time I saw the setup that I had seen many times in the Miniature Wargames magazine.

The games room was in a long rectangular building with two tables 27 feet long by 6 feet wide, and separated by a gap of 3 feet. Against one wall was another table, 3 feet wide, that could be used as troop assembly area, or for off table manoeuvring. After getting to know our host and the gaming facilities we were given the keys to the minibus and went back to the hotel in Scarborough. That minibus  became our self-drive transport for the week.

There were four games played. The first was a Napoleonic, followed by (not necessarily in order) Pony Wars and the Italian Wars. The last two days were a refight of Austerlitz, played across two tables and involving some 5,000 figures.

The Italian Wars game

The Pony Wars Game

The Napoleonic Games (the final three images are the Austerlitz game)