Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Battle in the Sudan: Relief of Atbara- Part 3``

Some images of the Mahdist army gathering to resist the British landing....and capture the fort! (the Krupp guns are served by captured Egyptian crews)

a "Rub" (3 units of 10 figures each) of Dervishes!

Mahdists tents in the background (actually 15mm scale Flames of War pre-painted North Africa terrain but it works ok in the distant pics)

Mahdist CinC with his standard bearer

Camelmen and cavalry mass to the attack

Mahdist cavalry (just painted)

In this game the Mahdist infantry units of 10 figures will each be "recovered" once,.... essentially doubling the Dervish force.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Battle in the Sudan-Part 2: Gunboats!

The British relief force steams up the Nile towards Atbara. The small gunboat Merak in the lead, with the Safeih and the large steamer Mizar following.

The debut of the gunboats today! I've been steadily working on a small fleet of Nile gunboats over the past few months in between new baby, teaching and a trip to Europe. I decided to scratchbuild the gunboats since I really enjoyed ship modeling in my younger days so it gave me a chance to try my hand at some simple sturdy gaming models to ferry the Royal Marines and the stalwart Sudanese to the battlefield. A little research on the internet reaped some great examples from other gamers as well as a few historical images that I could work from. (for example the nice Wasatch Front Historical Gaming Society site)

The converted river steamer Mizar armed with a formidable 4.5 inch deck gun, packed to the railings with Royal Marines and a party of '"bluejackets"...and those nutty-but-effective dried bean sandbags!

All three of these models are constructed by laying out a hull profile on two 1/4" layers of foamcore, and then building op a superstructure with white Strathmore board (from an art shop). Strathmore is great for this kind of modeling because it cuts very cleanly and can take a color wash of acrylic to get a good deck color windows and such without warping. The sheet of Strathmore is the most expensive part of the model but one sheet (about 5.00 USD) does the whole fleet with lots of leftover for future projects. Here are a few pics of the construction just to give you a sense of how they were constructed. The only factory produced part on the boats were some lengths of HO scale plastic stairs that I had bought a while ago at a model railroad shop. Smoke stacks are plastic tubing from Evergreen except for the small boat which is part of a ballpoint pen barrel.

The decking is drawn on Strathmore board in pencil and then stained a light tan with thinned acrylic. The pencil shows through the wash and looks like a ship deck to me ;)

Wheel houses constructed of Strathmore with window detail drawn on...

Small gunboat with sidewheel housing made of cut down cardboard boxes.

Small sidewheeler gunboat with a single Maxim mounted in the bow.

All of the guncastings mounted on the steamers are from Houston's Ships (sold by Old Glory) and are mounted on washer bases and placed on the decks loose so the ships can be armed differently for each battle.

This gunboat is loosely based on existing images of the gunboat Safeih and carries a party of bluejackets and a company of Sudanese. The boat is armed with a Maxim crewed by RN bluejackets in the bow.

The gunboats were all sized to hold a standard unit (10-20 figures) or a half unit so the boats are exaggerated in their width to accomidate the bases. The bases of all the Naval Landing party are sized small to allow the units to fit on the decks. You can see the difference between sizes in this shot of the Sudanese and the bluejackets.

4.5 inch main gun of the converted steamer Mizar ( a fictitious name after the star in the handle of the Big Dipper that traditionally was used by Arab tribes to test the eyesight of their sons...Mizar is a double star faintly visible to a good pair of eyes on a dark night)

Sudanese on deck prepared to land.

The gunboat Merak closes in to clear the landing point...and the battle begins!

The Mahdists at the landing frantically try to get their supply dhow underway to head up river to safety...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Battle in the Sudan: Relief of Atbara- Part 1

The Fort at Atbara with an Egyptian garrison of 2 companies (12 figures each) a battery of Krupp guns and a troop of cavalry

I've been playing a solo campaign for the past few months using Steve Winter's "Fire and Sword in the Sudan" campaign rules, and today's post is the beginning of a report of the first large battle in the campaign. Since I only started the collection at the beginning of last summer, it took a bit of painting and construction to get to a battle this size.

This battle will be the debut of the British gunboats and the Naval Brigade just recently completed. So here are some pics of the besieged fort at Atbara to start the report. (I'll be fighting this battle over a few days since we are snowed in here at Lead Gardens...and my gaming table is located across town... :0! This will also feature a fort largely constructed of cardboard boxes cleverly designed by the Egyptian engineer, Captain Mustafa Littlejohn (reportedly an orphan from Cairo who was adopted by an English Colonel and schooled in England in the finer points of military engineering on the cheap!)

the garrison mans the walls

Krupp gun posted on the main gate

The fort is a few hundred yards from the bank of the Nile and the Mahdists have occupied an old defensive tower near the dock area.

The Mahdist camp (the distance to the fort is "compressed" on the table so no firing between the fort and the camp is allowed in the game.

The landing area..(I have since added a dock to show in the next post)

Number 2 troop of the 1st Egyptain Cavalry regiment ready to sally from the fort

To Be Continued

Friday, November 27, 2009

Colonial Landing Party

After a busy November of traveling and family get togethers, I'm finally getting quieted down enough to contemplate finishing a British landing party for my Sudan collection. These fellows have been in progress for a few months now and its time to get them loaded on to my Nile gunboats (to appear in the next post). I'm using a 10-12 figure per company organization so the force seen here on the tray are 2 companies of Royal Marines and 2 companies of Naval Brigade "bluejackets" two bluejacket gun crews with 2 deck mounted Maxims and 2 Nordenfelt MGs all in various stages of near completion. I'm planning on leaving the bases plain tan so they match the gunboat decks as well as blend in reasonably well with the desert surface of my table. Along with these I'm painting up 2 mounted British Colonels to command the Brits in battle. All these figures are Old Glory 25/28mm. The Marines in grey are converted Spanish colonial regulars from Old Glory as well...they work well for units in long pants (like the Rifle Brigade and Royal Marines in the Sudan)

Naval Brigade Bluejackets

I think I'm going to have to name this stout fellow Sgt. Pepper....or maybe Ringo!

Naval Brigade Machine gun.

British Colonels

Royal Marines (faces yet to be completed)

I'm hoping to complete these all in the next few days and have a colonial game up and running before Christmas.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mini Grand Tour- The Return

Back from my trip to Italy... and still trying to grasp the enormity of the experience. Got to see plenty of old city fortifications like this 4 pointed fort near Siena. The fort is called the Citadel of Santa Barbera.

overview of the fort

The fort is in great condition and dates from 1560. It was designed by a fellow named Baldasarre Lanci and as I have since found out, the Italians were the inventors of the bastioned fort...a bit of fact that I had never had occasion to ponder. I suppose all those struggles between cities in the Italian Wars, and the invasion of Charles VIII of France, (who came equipped with a powerful mobile siege train), combined with a density of architectural and engineering genius present in the days of the early renaissance made it a hotbed of advanced military ideas as well.

Here is a desperate 'forlorn hope' huddled against the base of the rampart wall...actually our group of architecture students waiting for the bus.

In the distance you can just make out the shoulder of one of the bastions and the flanking gun positions that were designed to keep the base of the wall swept with enfilading fire.

a shoulder of the bastion

the double flank of the bastion...this doubling of the flank was typical of the old Italian manner of fortifications

looking straight in to the center of the rampart wall...

I'm not sure about the gate, I'm guessing it was a later addition or perhaps it was a sally port. There were a couple of these small gates built also in to the bottom of the bastion flanks.

rounded point of a bastion...this rounding was typical of early Italian fortifications and is capped at the base of the wall with an angled point making the base of the point more difficult to breach with cannons

The bus driver we awaited turned out to be a pretty gruff fellow and I couldn't resist taking a pic of his "warning" to unruly passengers hung on his rear view mirror...you can see him in the reflection... beware all yee who enter! ;)

In Rome I saw a nice toy soldier shop with this cool display of plastic Romans in testudo formation in its window. These guys were (I think) 90mm figures. The stuff inside was definitely for collectors and very expensive given my US dollars not spreading very far in Euros...but fun to see!

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Not exactly the way I'm traveling, and not as picturesque...but perhaps a bit more safe from the roving English privateer and a bout of scurvy!

Leaving tomorrow for Italy and could not be more excited! All my sketchbooks, watercolors and camera are packed and I've got some good things planned for this "Mini-Grand Tour". These trips come so few and far between for me that any chance to go to Europe is a really big life event that I get pretty keyed up about. The last month has gone by in a flash and I'm spending this evening (aside from "trick or treating" with the wife and kids) going over my itinerary and hunting down those last minute addresses of things to see before everything sets in motion.

I'll be missing reading all of your great blogs for the next few weeks but plan to enjoy catching up when I return.

Cheers and Ciao!


Friday, October 16, 2009

Bound For The Continent!

I remember my history of art professor pointing out the "foreshortened perspective" of the dead guy in the lower left front of Ucello's painting The Battle of San Romano as being the beginning of the European development of perspective drawing ....and I remember thinking I needed to try painting my lances a lighter color!

My allegedly tough academic job just got "tougher" by virtue of having been chosen to travel to Europe with an enthusiastic batch of architecture students! I am a lucky guy to be teaching at one of the best architecture schools in the US and I get to join their Europe travel group on occasion and this year I get the great opportunity in November to go to Italy for a couple of weeks to see the wonders of Florence and Rome. Of course my hidden agenda is always wargaming and I'm going to be on the hunt for all manner of things military and so I'm open to any and all suggestions of things to see in Rome and Florence with a nod towards my all consuming madness.