Friday, November 30, 2012

Finally Got Up the Steam

 One of those long untended areas here at the Lead Gardens is my project to paint up the plastic figures of my Battle Cry game. But I recently got re-energized by an ebay purchase of a second copy of the original Hasbro/AH game and doubled my figure count and opened up the possibility of doing more ambitious battles like Gettysburg in a more "grand manner".
 I finished the first set of Rebs last night and was pretty happy with the result. Though they are still a bit too shiny in these pics...I think another coat of flat spray will do the trick.

 I also think I managed to find the ideal solution to the plastic figure painting problem. I did the usual soap wash and then followed with an undercoat of black acrylic gesso mixed with "Weldbond" PVA glue. Weldbond is very tough and flexible and dries very tight to the surface and I think enhances the already great adhesion of just straight acrylic.
 I followed with a classic triad of base block colors, plus ink wash (I use "Didi's Magic Ink" from "The Warstore"), followed by a light drybrush of white. I coated the figures with Krylon triple thick gloss which gives the figures a very durable top coat. I then made a pass with Krylon Matte spray to get the shine to "flatten", but with only some success in getting to a satin finish. I'm going to try again tomorrow but I think the figures are at least a bit better than unpainted.

 You can see in the pics that I have to go over the bases again because pulling them off the paint sticks peeled the paint around the edges of the bases but that should be easy to fix.

 I think in general these guys came out too dark so in the next set I'm going to try to lighten the colors so when the wash is applied it should not darken things too much.
 I also replaced the game flags with paper flags downloaded from the various free flag sites.

Ultimately I want to be able to throw these fellows back in the box and not loose any paint to we will see...
...But, I may eventually base these guys up and go to marking hits on a stand instead of the individual figures.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Exciting Holiday Find

 I don't normally love the holiday season because here in the states it can get a bit crazy. But one thing I always look forward to is the holiday decorations that can be turned to good use for wargaming. Today I found a Christmas tree rug 30" in diameter with a nice green grass surface on one side and a smooth black rubber surface on the back. it was under 10 dollars and I bought one and headed home with my gaming wheels turning!

I got home and gave the rubber backside a coat of blue acrylic loosely applied letting some of the black show through...making a nice ocean texture. Then I got out a hex "template" that I had saved after punching out a Battle Cry boardgame a few years ago...(my wife calls me a hoarder but it's for just such a moment that I save things.

I got a hole punch and punched the vertices of the leftover hex sheet giving a good sized template to use for laying out some ocean "terrain" for my predreadnoughts. I just used a white gel pen to mark dots at the vertices and then freehanded the sides of the hexes...(a little drawing ability helps here...) The result is loose but effective. And the board is 12+ hexes across ...and at the game scale I think works with my ships, (1 hex to 1000 yards)which would be extreme engagement distance for ships of that era. Ships are allowed to use movement points to turn more than one hexface since the scale of the hex allows even the largest ship to turn within the hex. This is a variation of Bob Cordery's Naval version of his Memoir 44 based rules.
 I enjoy the way the circular board gives a sense of there being a horizon. It also reminds me of the "battle board" in the old Avalon Hill Bismark game...which I think I still have somewhere in my garage.

Now what to do with the grassy side....

PS, I found this mat at Lowes.

Friday, November 23, 2012

My Son's New Blog

My son started a new blog called Ben's Botcreations he's really enjoying taking things apart and reassembling them. I promised him I would give him a little "press" here on Lead Gardens so if any of my followers have youngsters he'd love it if they check in on his blog.
I think he is a scratchbuilder in the making...Thanks everyone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Home Brewed Pre-Dreadnoughts

Pre-dreadnoughts painted British style.
 I've been following a few blogs where homemade wargaming minis feature particularly "Wooden Warriors", and I was also looking at the yahoo group, "wargaming on a budget" this morning and it reminded me of a little project I started a year ago that was my shot a wargaming on the cheap.
 These pre-dreadnoughts are made of precut wooden shapes that can be had by the bag at typical craft outlets here in the states such as Michael's or AC Moore. I make the turrets from discs cut out of craft foam sheet using a paper hole punch. guns are from the ends of round toothpicks or in some case the ends of decorative toothpicks. The hole punch also works for punching thin sheet styrene. Sections of toothpick, styrene tube rod, and a wee bit of brass wire and you're all set.

The hulls are built-up using a stack of two or three of the same size shape with each layer shifted just a bit to give the impression of a pre-dreadnought bow of the period.
The German-ish fleet
The ships are stylized and a bit cartoonish, but the overall effect is belligerent in a 19th century "big stick" sort of way and to my eye pretty convincing. I've been trying to work up some rules that would not involve record keeping ( me the toxic part of naval well as spaceship gaming for that matter...) Just a few hit markers or such. Perhaps a system a bit like the old SPI Dreadnought game. I was also thinking these might work on a gridded field using a more abstract movement system of some sort.

I just used British and German color schemes from the late 19th century to give everything the right feel visually.
One thing that makes this project go quickly is having a "Chopper" from Northwest Short Line. It's perfect when you need a bunch of wood cut to the same length (perfect for those toothpick gun barrels).
The "Chopper"

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Full Monty, (or Cunningham)

Late in the game, the 15th Panzer in control of the field with swarms of Commonwealth infantry scrambling to hold the line after the heavy British tank losses. German infantry still cling to the airfield at Sidi Rezeg on the left of the pic. Italians still hold Bir El Gubi at the bottom right, and the South African Brigade is left facing German armor in the center.
I got a copy of the Memoir 44 "Breakthrough" boards in last Friday's post and I had some time today to set up the "Crusader" scenario. I had also recently purchased the new "equipment pack" with lots of special figures to add some spice to the M44 stew. In this big game I am going all-out with all optional rules and added a few extra units to the original scenario as well as some adjustments to the map to make it look "more like the actual battle" to my eyes.

Playing a desert scenario of a battle this large demand the inclusion of such goodies and rules like scout cars, supply trucks, 88s, big guns, mobile artillery, command cars (to represent Rommel) and the air pack. I also used the Churchill tanks included in the equipment pack to represent Matildas and treated them using the "Tiger Tank" rules (since they were really hard to kill given the light guns of the time) and reduced their move to 2 hexes since they were slow infantry tanks. And finally the grey French figures in the new equipment pack served nicely as Italian infantry and the Japanese tank minis from the Pacific served here as Italian armor.

The Lufwaffe really took a toll in this first game since with his free order Rommel was able to keep the air assets up and flying for several turns in the center sector where all the British armor was concentrated. The supply truck rules allowed units to withdraw to resupply and recover a hit. This made the game ebb and flow just like the real battle. With 12 medals required for victory the the game was long enough to support a withdrawal and return to the fray. For such an abstract game this was really not a bad representation of the battle.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Spencer Smiths for Sale

 I selling a venerable unit of 30mm Spencer Smiths on ebay since my collection is upscaling to 40mm. Find the link here:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Prince August Molds

Just getting home and tucking into an afternoon martini after a tough day at work is usually enough for me to feel good, but today was extra-good... my mailbox was stuffed with a box from Prince August with a fat box of some much needed molds! These arrived here in Virginia in record time...a mere week across the pond. I think the folks at PA have made a nice effort with their new website and new molds to step up their business and I really hope all the PA fans out there encourage them. Also included is a nice new catalog with good illustrations of all the available figures.

I also realized that I had forgotten that I had submitted an order for 2, 40mm Karoliner "914" molds in loading poses so I now combined with the firing poses I already have, I've got the ability to cast up some "freikorps" light troops in half the time! I was also inspired to add a sapper/engineer company to my armies and have some base figures for conversions so the new artillery figures will do well in that regard.

...Now where are those bloody olives...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Airfix Treasures

Three 24 figure units of Germans, two guns, three MGs and a Commander...a basic beginning to wargame force!
One of the unsung charms of "breaking old school" is the possibility of resurrecting older figures and putting them to use again. I was doing some garage cleaning this afternoon and found a couple of cool treasures of the Airfix kind. I found a box of Airfix WWI figures Germans and some British 18lbrs (I think Emhar?) that I had painted 15 years ago. I also found a big bag of French Foreign legion that can do service as Early WWI French as well as some early war British in peaked  hats. So I think I may try to paint up the rest and see what I can put together by way of a Featherstone style game.  If you look closely in the fist pic towards the back of the box I have some German 77mm field guns scratchbuilt using Airfix ACW guns.
Plastic prep: ready for the soap bath!
I also found a bag of Airfix ACW artillery that I needed to rekindle a big box of classic Airfix ACW. I got all this stuff at a convention at least 11 years ago( time slips by...) 

I was thinking I might just base them up to recreate the two small ACW forces seen in the example battle in Don Featherstone's "Battles With Model Soldiers" I'm missing cavalry but I can maybe find some on ebay.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Northwest Frontier: "Big Battle" Style

 Re-set my gridded table to 1878 for a little Northwest Frontier action Portable Wargame style, this time using Bob Cordery's "Big Battle"  19th century revisions to the rules. In recent months I've managed to add a few units to both sides of my NW Frontier collection so this battle proved to be pretty big.
The happiest Pathan commander I ever encountered...(actually she just was there for the photo op...Hot Wheels cars are more her taste these days)...

The Headman of the Waziri's village.
 I also used some simple cardboard buildings I built a while back using boxes from the local "Michaels" craft store...You can see a tutorial for making them here.

British begin to deploy for battle

Highlanders and Punjabis advancing on a Pathan held ridge

"Piper, sound the charge!"
I'm also using my added "heroic action" rule in this game where an attached individual leader figure (except the CinC)  can force a re-roll of any close action dice and taking the second outcome...while risking a D6 4-6 roll to eliminate the leader for exposing himself heroically in the action...The British typically have one or two leader figures for each 3 stand "Battalion", and the Pathans have one leader for every 5 units.
The CinC of the British force and an artillery leader figure.

Pathan cavalry make an early charge on an advanced guard of the 12th Bengal Horse.

 The figures are a mix of Jacklex 20mm and Ral Partha 25mm...and after some initial trepidation at the slight scale difference, I've grown accustomed to it and the units all seem "in scale" to me now. Especially since I mixed figure scales in the Pathan irregular bases. It surprisingly looks just fine.
 The Jacklex cavalry actually works better for this basing style (40mm squares) since I can fit 3 cavalry to that size base.
Highlanders and Punjabis scale the ridgeline

a mountain gun in support

Bengal cavalry and Ghurkas in a wild melee on the plain with Pathan cavalry.
Finally, I did find the Portable Wargame Big Board rules to be "cleaner" than the earlier versions. I particularly liked the simplified activation die rules. I did find myself "tinkering" with the Close Combat rules. They seemed to be a bit indecisive in that units could "lock" into close combat and not be able to get an outcome for several turns (particularly cavalry since it only takes a hit on a "1" in close combat so two cavalry units would stay locked in close combat for several turns without a result). So I tried the following rule change:

Units hit in close combat only translate "hits" as follows:

Elite Units        1or2= unit destroyed       3,4,5,6=mandatory one square retreat and lose 1SP
Average Units  1,2,3= unit destroyed      4,5,6=mandatory one square retreat and lose 1SP
Poor units        1,2,3,4=unit destroyed      5,6=mandatory one square retreat and lose 1SP

This rule adjustment served to both speed up the game just a bit and to make Close Combat more decisive...sort of a balance I think between Bob's intent and Morschauer's more "bloody" basic combat resolution approach where hits always eliminate. It also serves to differentiate fire combat results from Close Combat and at least it gave the Highlanders a reason to charge that heavily defended ridgeline!

But regardless, it produced a fun Sunday's diversion, and some thoughts about a possible campaign using a "squared" larger map that is scaled to my tactical table size of 18x18 grid squares so each grid square on the map would be a "table".  The battle rules are clean and fast so running a campaign could actually work, and I can spice it with some skirmishes using "Sword and the Flame" if needed.