Sunday, July 22, 2012

15mm Spanish Village: Finishing Up

 I was able to make a few final touches on the Spanish Village with the addition of bases that would cover a 2 1/2" grid square and give a little area for added scenics. Though I think I will have to use some method for indicating units occupying the buildings as there is no room for them in the square if a building is in place.
 I also had a try at making some plowed fields after being inspired by Jeff's suggestion using the Liquitex "Ceramic Stucco". All the bases and the fields were made of the backing cardboard from a pad of drawing paper cut to size. The walls on the fields and building bases were cardboard as well and served to stiffen the cardboard when later painted. I found the fields warped for a while when the Liquitex was drying but they dried flat eventually. Just a matter of painting and some added foliage and a small amount of static grass and time to call the project finished.
Here you can see the fit of the buildings on the gridded surface

 I also did a final pass with a sharp pencil across the lines of the roof tiles to get a more convincing rendition of a pan-tile roof.
The final effect looks ok to me, and the added bases also give another layer of protection to the inner core of relatively soft foam inside. The buildings seem pretty sturdy and should survive a few knocks.
All ready for battle!
So now the wait for the SCW figures from Peter Pig will hopefully not be too long.
(This just in,.... a note from Peter Pig just arrived in my in-box saying the SCW figures are now headed my way...!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Spanish Village in 15mm: On the Cheap!

basic buildings from floral foam topped with cereal box cardboard...a simple start, but lots of potential
 "Mind the Pennies" is the watchword here at the Lead Gardens these days and my latest emerging project is no exception. After having some nice success re-basing my colonial 20mm stuff and having a few recent battles using the "Portable Wargame" rules ...(thanks for all the encouragement guys!)... I came into a bit of "extra" funds to start another small project. I've been contemplating getting back into Spanish Civil War after a long (15 years) hiatus and the "Portable Wargame Rules have got me thinking that I could do two armies in 15mm relatively cheaply using the "Peter Pig" line of SCW minis and the look and scale of the rules would lend themselves to a good looking as well as an inexpensive game.  So I fired off an order to the folks at Peter Pig this weekend and while I wait I'm going to work on terrain for Spain circa 1930s in keeping with the Portable Wargame table that I gridded off for my NW Frontier colonials. That means everything has to keep to a 2 1/2" grid square, and be fairly simple and inexpensive to produce. Though I do love the Hovels line that I used when I was doing SCW in 20mm (using the great Historical Products SCW line sculpted by David Allsop and still available from Pat Condray) way back when, and some of the JR miniatures buildings in 15mm are workable as well, I'm trying to reduce the cost of terrain to a bare minimum. Rather than go with my usual old school building approach, (of buildings made of basswood or balsa, painted and the details drawn on), I thought that the SCW 15s might be better with a bit more detail in keeping with the figures and vehicles.
a coat of water putty for the walls and a layer of Liquitex ceramic acrylic for the roofs
 One of the things I have found in dealing with buildings on the game table over the years is that keeping the "footprint" of the buildings small is always good so as to not give away too much maneuvering space on what are usually for me limited sized tables. So my approach is to make the buildings a bit tall in relation to their width and depth. This does two things— it preserves the scale height so the figures and vehicles don't look too giant next to the buildings, and preserves the all important table real estate for deploying units.
a really quick and dirty Spanish village takes shape
 My "Portable Wargame" table is gridded into 2 1/2" squares so the buildings are going to have to fit within that dimension. This past Monday I was able to duck into my local craft outlet and I found some florist foam that was of a slightly higher density than what normally is used for flower arranging (usually the flower foam is way to soft for gaming purposes...)  so I took a chance and bought three small blocks of the stuff thinking an experiment was in order.
the village church
 I was pleasantly surprised to find that the stuff was pretty sturdy yet cut really easily and I could make a balsa tool to press windows and doors into the foam building shape. The next step was to make the surfaces more durable and get a credible "pan tile roof" that would pass for Spanish buildings. I looked at many possible roof ideas including plastic molded sheet (not available in town)...stiffened corduroy fabric...maybe, but I didn't want to have to drive out to a fabric shop. While looking around our local art supply shop before heading in to work today, I found some "Liquitex Ceramic Stucco" acrylic paint which fit the bill perfectly. So that combined with some DAP water putty for coating the building faces, I was all set to make a quick, cheap and most importantly,  a convincing Spanish village of the 1930s.
Liquitex textured acrylic solves the roof problem ($10.00 USD for the jar and the project only used a few tablespoons of the stuff)
 The DAP water putty adheres to the foam really well and stiffens the soft surface of the foam. I used thin cardboard from a cereal box to make the basic planes of the roof and used super glue to stick them to the basic building shapes. The "pan tiles" were created by spreading a thin layer of the Liquitex Ceramic Stucco acrylic and then using a "v notched" spreader to make the lines of the roof tiles. Once it had all dried the foam was both protected and stiffened to a reasonable sturdy finish (as long as nobody steps on them....)
The combination of textured acrylic and "V notched spreader" is the secret to making pretty convincing roof tiles
 Then came a stain of yellow ochre colored paint and red brown for the roof tiles and followed by some drybrushing....and in a day and a half I had a small village completed! (I did do a small bit of detailing on a few of the buildings using some textured plastic sheet for shutters...but the buildings look good even without that extra bit of work)
 This weekend I'm planning to base these buildings on 2 1/2" square bases to help protect the undersides of the foam from damage, so hopefully the building will stand up to some use.

So I'm now thinking to make some vineyards and plowed fields with the remaining texture paint...and hopefully the figures will arrive in due time and I can get to painting up a new period. I hope to get this new project done before the fall semester begins and my teaching load ramps up again.

So I managed to get 6, 15mm buildings for less than $10.00 USD with just a couple of short working sessions over the past 2 days...I like those numbers!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Two Battles in Two Days

 Two battles completed after a weekend of gaming progress! The first has a British punitive column attacking a Pathan held village in a valley flanked by rough hills.
Pathans mass on the hillsides

Sikhs prepare to assault the village while Bengal lancers screen the river bank

Punjab infantry assault the Pathans on the right flank

Highlanders and a field gun move to support the Sikhs hard pressed by rifle fire from the village and a fierce charge of Pathan cavalry

Punjabis crest the hill

The British are forced to withdraw taking heavy losses

The British start positions at the foot of the pass
 I managed a second battle after the kids were off to today's summer activities and before I had to head off to teach my afternoon classes. This time the British attempt to force a Pathan held pass. This time the hills I constructed yesterday really come into play and made for a bit of scenic goodness. (lighting this morning affects the colors in these pics)

 The British were deployed first in a way I thought would be balanced and the Pathans deployment was then randomized and then played as is. I deployed the Pathans anywhere up to six rows in from the table edge except for a unit of 4 stands deployed holding the crest of the pass.
Pathan position on the pass

The British advance
At this point in the game I added a road for some color. I'm still "sketching in" the terrain and figuring out what will work or what has to be improved. 
The Ghurkas assault the pass after some shellfire softens up the defenders.

Pathans make a deep flanking movement with a series of high initiative rolls

the struggle for the pass

Pathan cavalry make a last ditch attempt to throw back the Ghurka assault

...but ultimately the Pathans hit their army break point (I'm currently using a 2/3 of total stands lost as a game ending break point to keep things looking right casualty-wise)—with the British sustaining only a 25% loss in units (good for this sort of game and much better than their first outing)
I'm getting a much better hang of the rules and a better understanding of how to take time to get an assault rolling with lots of units instead of sending units in piecemeal. I thought artillery was a bit weak in the first game but it was pretty effective this time out so I think if the Brits can get a few mountain guns painted up the British will be a bit more formidable and I can then add some more Pathans. I've also got a Russian force (converted from Egyptians and Russo-Japanese War Jacklex figures and a Krupp gun) waiting for basing to make for more intriguing colonial struggles on the Afghan plains. With battles being completed in an hour or less, a solo campaign becomes feasible even for a busy guy with kids and a if I can just camouflage the game equipment on our dining table to look like an elegant four piece table setting, I can leave it set up without my dear wife being the wiser!    "Baby, could you please pass the dice I mean the potatoes...!"

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Portable Wargame Part 2: The Hills are Alive!

 Had a great time this weekend painting up some more units for my colonial "not quite Portable Wargame". I was able to get a unit of Punjab infantry done as well as a few stand of Pathan cavalry and some single leader figures for the Pathans so both sides now can use my "Heroic Action" rule I mentioned in the last post.

One thing I wanted to work on was more period specific terrain for the NW Frontier while still retaining the abstract quality of the Bob's Portable Wargame Rules. I felt that my cork hill layers needed to be a lot more precipitous if the table was going to look anything like the Northwest Frontier of India.

I remembered a really cool idea for dealing with steep hill terrain that was on the now immortal "Major General's" website (by far and away the best gaming site of all time IMHO...) So this evening I got to work cutting some crestline profiles out of the scrap cork leftover from making the hill layers...glued them together so they stand up and can be placed to make "impassable ridgelines"on the normal cork hill layers. I think these ridge-lines will be impassable to colonial troops but the Pathans will be able to cross them by using a two initiative points to cross to the other side...that would reflect their better knowledge of the terrain and their legendary agility on the high slopes. All the cork layers have a the 2 1/2" grid drawn on but because the cork is dark it is barely visible...which to my eyes is a good thing as the grid is just visible enough to locate units but not too bold to destroy the "look" of the table.
A large gathering of Afridi Pathans advance up the mountainous slopes to outflank the British
 The new terrain gives a nicely abstract impression of mountainous ridge-lines while being simple to construct, and helps to rough up the flat cork hill layers.
the Sikhs have their deadly work ahead...

Pathans gather at the foot of a large hill mass

mountains in the distance....

A new battle set up to be played tomorrow evening after work...I can't wait!

Pathans lie in wait...I need to dig up some Kipling in the meantime to get into the mood!...I remember something like:"Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
   An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.."

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Not Quite Portable Wargame

 After my last post and some thinking on how to use a pile of bases for a new and inexpensive summer project. I realized that I had forgot about a batch of Jacklex and Ral Partha (20/25mm figures) colonial (NW Frontier) figures I had worked on last year. I had intended to base them individually and use TSATF skirmish rules with them, but never really got the urge to complete the stuff. So I thought they might work well with the "bases without an army" problem mentioned in my last post. So after a week of basing and painting a few more to fill out the collection I managed to put together two armies for use with Bob Cordery's "Portable Wargame Rules."

I now have a British vs Pathans collection and the project has turned out quickly and I managed to get in some unexpected gaming this Saturday due to some timely babysitting on the part of my wonderful father-in-law.
British punitive column deploys to teach the Pathans the inevitability of civilized might! Sikhs on the left, Ghurkas on the right and the 72nd Highlanders in reserve. (3 stands is a typical colonial battalion)
I based the Brits 6 to a 40x40mm base and the Pathans 4-5 to a base and used the old Peter Gilder trick of leaving off a few figures and filling in with terrain on the bases. I got a few more bases out of the project using this method and the Pathans look appropriately irregular. The armies are a bit larger than the 12 units recommended in Bob's early version of "TPW" so my Brits have 12 bases and the Pathan army is a bit larger at 16 bases/units. But my table is larger as well (18x18 grid squares each 2 1/2" square)...all in all enough room for everything but still fits on the dining table.

I mixed in the Ral Parthas with the Jacklex Pathans to minimize the discrepancy in the sizes of the figures (the Rals are just a bit bigger but the overall effect works fine with an abstract game like "Portable Wargame"). One trick I found was to put the larger figures towards the center of each base and the smaller Jacklex to the outside so the scale difference is less noticeable.
Jacklex 20mm 72nd Highlanders and Ral Partha Sikhs in the background. The field gun and crew is Jacklex.
 One of the challenges was that I wanted to keep the old school shiny look with unflocked bases so adding rocky terrain to fill the Pathan bases posed a bit of a problem. I decided to paint the bases an olive green and simply glue the rocky terrain right on the base...thus keeping the overall abstract quality of the armies consistent with both the rules and the old school figures. It seems to work (at least to my eyes)...
Pathans lie in wait
 Some of the glue is still drying in these pics so you can see how straightforward the basing scheme is...(we don't need no stinkin' flock!  ;)
 I used 15mm desert buildings from Battlefront for the village. They are small and fit the 2 1/2" square grid nicely. I decided to go with a square grid rather than hexagons since I use hexes with my 6mm Naps and needed something simple and even more "classic".
 Cork tiles were pressed into service to make hill contours.

 I also am working on some additional rules to add period chrome to the basic rules. I have added a "Heroic Action" rule that I think adds some interesting color to the game: Each army can have a number of individually based leader figures that represent company/regimental officers in addition to the CinC. These figures move with the "company" (I assume stands are company sized) and when in close combat can be risked for a re-roll of a Close Combat die. Regardless of the second roll the leader figure rolls to "risk himself" in the action 4,5,6 resulting in the leader being lost...and or "mentioned in dispatches"... The rule adds a bit of color to an otherwise abstract army level game, but I think gives a good reason to paint up some cool leader figures! I made the grid squares large enough to fit both an infantry base and a leader 2 1/2" squares seems to do the job nicely.
The Sikhs assault a wooded spur with an officer in the combat and the Ghurkas in support

Close Combat!
I'm now painting another unit of Jacklex Punjabis. The basic stand will represent a company and three companies plus one or two leaders will form a British "battalion"

It all seems to work and is ripe for further tinkering with additional period "chrome". I'm also seriously thinking to try this same approach with Spanish Civil War so...when my next check comes in....