Saturday, July 25, 2009

Arab Dhow: A Navy for the Mahdi

Not even sure if the Mahdi had a navy, but in the wonderful world of semi-historical colonials...he's getting one! ;)

I finished the arab dhow conversion and took it out for a gaming spin. My "period sketch" begun a couple of posts ago, continues to evolve and has now become a running game that is getting new reinforcements as I finish them. In this case I added a strip of the Nile to the end of my table and surprise here comes a dhow full of jehadia riflemen to give the Brits a few headaches.

The conversion was done as per the one found on the "Major General's" page. Here are some comparisons of the original toy ship and the finished conversion.

The only real departure from the method described by the Major General, is that I found that after the surgery to remove the tabs and such from the original deck, the surface was pretty carved up so I decided to just plank the deck with a new surface made of wooden coffee stir sticks "liberated" from my local Starbucks. (the petty larceny was minimal since it only takes a few sticks to cover the deck)

Though it looks time consuming, the deck only takes about an hour to complete because the coffee sticks are thin enough to cut quickly with a wire nipper. I started on the centerline of the ship and worked out to the beams cutting to fit as I went and after a section was all cut I just glued the planks down. The nice thing about the wood deck is that it just takes a light ink wash followed by a drybrush to get a good looking finish and the irregularities in the planking make any fitting mistakes almost invisible. The rest of the colors were determined by looking at a few dhow images online. The blue colored panels and white trim look pretty common in pictures of the real thing.

The dhow was just in time to add needed support to the mahdists defending their stronghold against a determined British/Egyptian column.

The tower is also a part of the Pressman Weapons and Warriors set and is simply painted. The tower holds about 4 or 5 riflemen depending on your base sizes

the Emir orders his camelmen forward!

The emir figure is a Connoisseur casting and is converted (with a good bit of surgery and green stuff) to sit on a camel instead of a horse.

What started as a rough table "sketch" is starting to develop into full blown colonial mayhem!

Egyptian infantry in some peril...

while their second company comrades make an attempt on the tower gate

Bengal lancers melee with the emir's camelmen.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Paints and Progress

Dropped by my local brick and mortar game shop today and picked up some new paint. I try to support both shops in town even though they are primarily GW/Fantasy outlets, so mostly that means buying paint. While I don't have any particular favorite paint, over the past few years I have tried to buy the better stuff (meaning for me: coverage, color, and consistency...not necessarily in that order). For years I used the cheap stuff from my local craft stores, like Ceramcoat and Palmer Prism that are workable but sometimes lack covering power. Lately though I've given myself the license to go for better quality paint since it really does make life much easier in the long run.

My staple brands have been GW and Vajello since I can readily get them nearby and they have given me great results. Today though, my local store had a new stock of P3 paints from Privateer Press (I think the line has been out for a few years) that I decided to try and on first blush are nice high quality paints... so my paint box is getting pretty "promiscuous" . But I still use the cheap Palmer Yellow since it is the best yellow for my purposes and surprisingly covers well. Yellow is for me a notoriously tough color coverage-wise so I sometimes judge a brand by yellow first.

And finally tonight I'm finishing up an Arab dhow and fortress tower converted from parts of an out of production "Weapons and Warriors" game made by Pressman that I got on ebay last month. The Major General's page has detailed instructions on how to make the dhow, so no construction pics here, but the game comes with 2 ships and 2 small dinghies! So after I get the sails on this evening, I'll post some before and after pics of the original plastic game components and the converted dhow in its finished glory!

Since this is the second Pressman set that I was able to acquire over the years, I still have two other boats that are in their original condition plus lots of the other parts. I sold one dhow and tower conversion on ebay from the first set, (they went for a surprisingly high price a couple of years ago.) thus leaving me with one plus the two new ones that came in the newest set so I'm knee deep in plastic boats! I'm figuring to make one as a square sailed 18th century 2 masted brig or sloop....and the third I may finish as a dhow and sell it to buy more stuff!

Friday, July 17, 2009

"Sketching In" a Period

While I was working in my "man space" today I had a visitor in the form of the young son of a customer of my wife's who was buying yarn up in the front (believe it or not, my gaming space is in the back storeroom of a yarn shop!?) I had given him some AWI 54mm plastics and a few buildings a while ago and I think the miniatures bug may have bitten. He was pretty quiet and taking it all in but I'm guessing the "wheels are turning"...his mom may let him visit this blog...if so, welcome!

Anyway I was working on my colonials table and experimenting with the cardboard flats described on the Major General's page in the terrain section. Since my game space is essentially in a shipping room, corrugated cardboard is in generous supply and I was spending the afternoon doing what I call "sketching"...which is essentially laying out figures and terrain and seeing what options I have given my available terrain and in this case trying out a quick method for dividing up a small table to make the apparent length greater. The guys at the Major General's page suggest a really clever method using cardboard flats arranged in such a way as to essentially double the table's length. Just the ticket for those colonial punitive column scenarios. I just grabbed some stuff off the floor of the shipping room and started cutting. The result is crude (like a sketch) but lays out the essentials in a way that can guide future improvements. In the meantime...well... I can start gaming!

Egyptian column works its way up a rocky valley with a troop of Bengal lancers scouting ahead

I also dug up a fortified tower from my old NW Frontier terrain to use as an intermediate objective for the column. The tower is a bit large for the small table but I have a remedy in the wings. I was lucky enough to win on ebay one of the Pressman Weapons and Warriors game sets that contain some really marvelous stuff that can be used readily for colonial gaming. So in addition to converting a couple of pirate dhows (as described on the Major General's page) I have a nice plastic arab stronghold (small tower) to paint up soon...all of these development to be posted as they are completed.

One of the most wonderful elements of the Major Generals page is the way their scenarios are played out on REALLY small tables, yet they are able to capture a sense of a much larger world that the game is occurring in. My favorites are those scenarios that are laid out on a small oval dining table. Also much appreciated is the flexible approach to historical opponents...with the most interesting scenarios being historically based but fictitious nonetheless. Really inventive and amazingly inspiring stuff!

In the meantime some images of my "table "sketches"...

I really like those background hills out of cheap cardboard...hmm...if I paint those up in a little green I might be able to solve my background problem for my 18th century stuff and ECW as well.

The pics if find also help to figure out what needs improving, like those old beat up styrofoam hill pieces got a little paint touch up today.

I'm using The Sword and the Flame rules as my base set but I also ordered the new edition of Piquet called "Field of Battle" so as to have another avenue for solo play.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Forecast: Dry and Hot and Dangerous!

Colonials are the watchword for the month of July here at Leadgardens. Once you realize that painting vast acres of khaki and white clad figures can be a pleasant break from other more complex projects—like those painfully slow Naps sitting on the back shelf..."if you guys don't get done quicker, I'm gonna ebay the lot of you!, he muttered...)

wild melee around a Krupp gun

But the Mahdi and the Sirdar has come to the rescue giving me a project that does not involve too many headaches and a good bit of fun! Just right for a sleep-deprived new dad!

Fortunately I have over the years followed my one unbreakable rule: "NEVER SELL YOUR TERRAIN!" I had lots of palms, desert style buildings and such from a previous collection of colonials to get a game on fairly quickly after the first few units were painted up...a great way to keep the momentum going.

I am experimenting with using cork for the playing surface just to try something different...and as Maestro Wells would say, "cork is the natural terrain of toy soldiers." In these pics the cork is not glued down but I'm probably going to fix them to the boards eventully. I find the surface really nice for figures and forgiving if you knock stuff over. The down side is its price and I think it's not a particularly environmentally friendly choice so my cork tiles may wind up headed for other uses at some point.

Egyptian Krupp battery (with rather ugly ammo markers and not sure about those brass barrels on the guns but one of my b/w reference pics looked like brass so...)

rebellious Egyptians holding a Nile village

Egyptians man a zareba

Bengal lancers move through rough ground

Next up: Mahdist Camelmen and the stalwart Sudanese!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Medievals For Sale

I have a small collection of Medieval figures (a mix of GW , Perry and Old Glory) that I had been using for skirmishes that is now up for sale on ebay (link to auction)....they have to go in order to feed the "gaming dragon"....only 3 days left in the auction.

the entire batch