Sunday, January 30, 2011

Classic Wargames Building Tutorial

One of the many delights that comes from "Classic Wargaming" (or "old school" if you will...) is the feeling that there's nothing that cannot be produced easily and inexpensively for the sake of a good game. The appeal for me is not only the masses of shiny soldiers and the straightforward rules, but it is also the "look of the thing". In a classic game the abstraction of the game carries a beauty that is really a thing to behold...especially after having spent years in the "model railroad layout" style of gaming that admittedly also produces some amazing game experiences but sometimes is an expensive and time consuming direction to take in the hobby.

So for this post I thought it might be a nice break from AARs to post some basic ideas for producing "classic" wargaming buildings in short order with a minimum of headaches and a maximum of fun!

For this building project I decided to keep it simple with a basic building made of almost entirely of 3/16" thick balsa with all the details drawn on in a loose-but-convincing "old school" way. The resulting structure will work for both classic games as well as more detailed table set ups.

OK so here goes:

First, the base is cut from a 1/8" masonite (mdf) scrap that I had laying around. (my wife calls me a hoarder, but I think it's just a wargamer habit to be alert to that "hey I can use that" moment. The building I'm making here is going to be about 3"x5" so I'll cut this masonite scrap down a bit leaving a margin a bit larger than 3"x5" for some ground detail. The stuff is hard so a multi-pass cut with the knife will eventually do the trick.

The next step is to cut the four walls out of 3/16" balsa. I use a cheap metal square (available from "Micromark" online) to make the cuts precise. Essentially the two 5 inch sides are cut first with a height of 3". This will make a pretty good sized building and actually a bit larger than my usual buildings, but I'm planning on making this structure a row of town houses to represent  building block in a bigger city. In determining sizes I always assume figures will fit inside a lift-off building (a la Charles Grant) so I always plan the inside space carefully.

Next the gable ends pieces are laid out on a sheet cut to a 3" width. I learned a trick long ago in architecture school to lay the gables out so that you only have two cuts to make...(an "X") and the leftover triangles will be used as well.

OK so that's simple enough, and we have all the basic elements already cut and it's only been a few minutes of construction time!
Next we glue all the sides together...(I use "Weldbond" ...the very best white PVA glue...accept no substitutes...really... life will be much easier...:)... Glue the sides together off of the base so you don't get anything stuck to the base...and I use the metal square to keep everything squared up during the first few minutes of drying. Weldbond sets up to an initial strong tack really quickly so it makes the entire process more easy but it allows repositioning for a good while.

While the walls set up, I lay them over the base and mark out the line of the inside walls so I can then glue up some "ruined walls" in the interior. I normally use HO scale cork roadbed for the ruined walls but I was out of the stuff so I just randomly cut some more of the balsa and stuck it down.  I set the inside walls a bit off center so I could leave some base area for building entrances.

After that I cut two roof pieces of the same balsa (again normally I might use a thinner basswood for the roof...but for this project there was none on hand) and glued them to the angles of the gable ends. I also took the two extra triangular pieces leftover from the gable cuts and added them on the outside to beef up the gable profile on each end. Finally I took some think basswood and "edged" the roofline to get a bit more cleanness on the gable end.

Then for a bit more detail I decided to add some chimneys to the roofline to give the building a townhouse scale. These were done in the same 3/16" balsa by cutting a strip about 1" wide and cutting 1-1/4" sections for the chimneys. between each two laid out on the strip I laid out a square to be cut out so the "chimneys" would fit on the angle of the roof.

So in this pic you can see the nearly complete construction of the townhouses. Still simple and ready for paint.

Here is the raw building next to some hussars escorting a coach and four...(the hussars are still in the painting stage)

Next is a coat of white acrylic paint to set the painting in motion....

The next stage involves drawing on the details/windows of the structure. In a classic wargaming manner, the drawing is purposely kept loose and is done with a fine waterproof marker (MICRON or UNIBALL pens are a good choice for this step). The waterproof part is important because you will be adding a few washes of color so you don't want that to kill your outlines.  Since I'm going for a townhouse, the building is divided into three sections to make the structure look like three townhouses.

 The gable ends are this stage some period images are helpful to get the windows and details right...I used some tourist images of Prague to help dial it in...

One the outlines of the windows and such are drawn, shadows are indicated with a heavier line (I used a Sharpie pen)...check out my tutorial HERE on how that's done. Basically the technique makes the drawn building appear more three dimensional.

 Then thin washes of color define the roof, details and windows...and the building entrances on the bases are picked out with a tan color.

It's rough, but it looks right for a "Classic" wargame.

 The roof shingles are done with a Micron pen by first drawing the horizontal courses with a kind of "back and forth" motion of the pen so the line is a rough and varied.

 Then that is followed by the vertical lines of the shingles quickly "flicked' with the pen in alternating seems like a lot of work but it actually takes only about 20 minutes...

 I like to add some age to the buildings by showing spots where the plaster has flaked off...

...and finally after only a few hours of work, another building to add to the table!

Friday, January 28, 2011

What To Do With All That Old Micro Armor

OK since my son is clearly addicted to my iPad primarily because of the very popular "Plants vs Zombies" game...and much as I try to limit his time on it... I have decided to launch a counterstroke on behalf of tabletop gaming by breaking out a pile of old microarmour and 10mm scale armor and cooking up a set of rules that essentially turn "Plants vs Zombies" into a basic wargame that my 5 year old can understand. essentially the American M1s and Bradleys are the Plants and the Russians T-72s and BMPs (with a few exceptions and mixing on both sides) are the Zombies (no offense to my Russian friends!!) ...and it's no surprise that he got it immediately!
We used a gridded sheet of green foamboard that I was using to work on some 6mm Naps rules and a few buildings and we were off and running.

...the little guy decided mid-game that PT 76s had amphibious capabilities!

We didn't worry about the scales of the various vehicles (10mm and 1/285 and even a few 1/300!)...and really it was a pretty good time.

Basically the "Zombies" moved relentlessly across the table moving 2 grid squares per turn and the "Plants" shot them to pieces with a simple d6 5-6 hits rule that gave the little guy just enough suspense...and dad could push the Zombies and enjoy his martini in the process...much like the iPad game he loves so much, except dad got to be there for it...a huge difference between that and a checked-out kid wired into a video game!

And, since I don't do much in the way of small armor stuff anymore it gave the stuff I had a much needed outing before I sell it on ebay!

T72s lurk in a plowed field waiting for a target...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Advance Guard Action- Finale

Crunch Time for the Konigreich! As the heavy column of von Kluge's Fusiliers crashes into Jahde's musketeers, Major Kolodziejczyk rallies the Grand Duchess' lancers to a final charge in a desperate bid to stem the Bleiherzener assault on the bridge. A deadly fusillade fired by the Croats causes great loss among the Bleiherzen officers and much confusion in the advancing muketeers.

 Overview of the moments before the lancers charge...on the far right the melee of horse versus the unfortunate gunners of the Grolstein the center the Gentlemen Pensioners advance on the Grolstein Red Grenadiers...on the left the melee at the bridge about to begin...

With the crash of a volley from the stalwart Red Grenadiers, the advancing Pensioners loose their Colonel and their steady morale...and leave the field.

 The final charge of the Grand Duchess' lancers! Kolodziejczyk leads his men into the teeth of Bleiherzern musketry...
 ...and the charge shatters both units and they scatter to the rear leaving the infantry in melee to fend for themselves....
 Though the Bleiherzen fusiliers struggle to overcome Jahde's infantry, they are the first to break and go streaming to the rear leaving the Grolsteiners with the field...The Konigreich brigadier is heard to mutter "Wo die verdammte Kavallerie ist!

The Pensioners, still looking splendid in retreat!


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Advance Guard Action: Part 3

Part three of the Action at Crunkenhof is marked by a charge of Bleiherzen dragoons covering the retreat of the shattered jagers of Colonel Gerlach...(amazingly, in this battle he emerges unscathed but vows revenge on those accursed Poles!). The dragoons successfully send the lancers retreating back to their lines, and the battle settles down to the main contest of infantry.

Overviews from the Bleiherzen side show the opposing battlelines forming for the attack. On the lower left a Bleiherzen howitzer lobs shells towards the bridge area causing confusion and casualties among the retreating lancers mixed among the defending Croats holding the bridge while the Grolsteiner artillery on the hill to the right begin to have an effect on the Bleiherzen right wing

Overview of Crunkenof showing the buildings occupied by De Grassin's mercenaries...(my buildings are the classic  lift-off type) ...and the Yellow grenadiers forming to center of the Bleiherzen line. Retreating and reforming on the lower right are a squadron of dragoons.

 The Bleiherzen right begins advancing on the Grolstein main line at approximately mid game.

...and the Bleiherzen left advances with two regiments on the distant bridge objective.  The Fusiliers formed up in column look determined to capture the objective.

The first exchange of volleys staggers the Gentleman pensioners but they stand to it and deliver a crushing return volley at the Grand Duchess' Liebguard that causes heavy loss and fells the unit's Colonel.

Grolstein Croats fall back to the bridge approaches.

The grand Duchess' Poles now reformed move up to support the Croats while Conrad Jahde's Musketeers fire a volley into the oncoming Bleiherzeners.

On the far right flank a charge of Bleiherzen horse is ordered and both dragoons and hussars charge the battery of Grolsteiner guns and by sheer luck escape major casualties in the charge resulting in the complete rout of the enemy guns.

The battered Gentlemen Pensioners regiment still advance with only the Grolstein Red Grenadiers to stop their advance...the fate of the Grolstein left wing hangs in the balance...

Meanwhile Brigadier General Tipplehof manages to rally the retiring Liebguard...a turning point in the battle!

...the Bleiherzen left wing column headed by the Fusilier Regiment von Kluge crashes into Jahde's Musketeers and the final melee to decide the battle begins!

...continued in the final installment...