Tuesday, April 7, 2020

on the road again...

Carrying on with my terrain-making for the War of 1812 and the French and Indian War, next up some roads. For many years I've been using a variety of materials for quick and easy roads, none of which were completely satisfactory. Part of the problem was finding a material that could be easily worked and looked good (and wouldn't warp when texturing or glue is applied). Of course, the other part was actually getting around to doing something about it...

A recent trip to Home Depot garnered several of these PVC(?) textured garage floor tiles. The texture is perfect!

For those interested, the product code. 

The tiles are easily cut with a heavy-duty exacto knife. The edges were then bevelled (a decidedly messy and tedious exercise). I also picked up some brown silicon caulking for the wheel ruts (be sure to get the paintable version). This is spread out with a finger and the wheel ruts scored in with a small wooden matchstick. Tip: wait a full 24 hrs for the caulking to cure completely before proceeding.

The caulking has been spread and the pieces ready for a variety of dry-brush coats and washes. You can see the original test pieces finished. The straight pieces (of various lengths) were easy to cut. The curves and junctions, not so much.

And the entire batch completed. A lot of work for what seems a small batch but all told it would stretch about 12 feet.

The rubber is flexible but only with some effort. These are not meant to be draped over hills or depressions but will conform to slight variations. If they're not stored flat, it takes only a few minutes for the rubber to settle flat when on a table.

And some action shots...

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

FIW & War of 1812 scatter terrain

While waiting for my new FIW figures to arrive from Northstar, I decided to knock together a couple of scatter terrain pieces.

Some scrap pieces of balsa produced a small herb/vegetable garden and pig sty, suitably distressed and frontier-like. The cattle and pigs are from Eureka, picked up at Fall In! 2019.

The pigs are, of course, mounted separately for use elsewhere on the farm and for looting and plundering, if necessary.

I also took the opportunity to tart up my old wooden fence pieces. These have been around for at least 10 years and needed an update of their ground colour to match the newer terrain pieces. These were mounted on floor tiles and thus I couldn't chamfer the edges or round the corners but the new colours and foliage make a nice difference. I just need to get around to making more (only six feet here).

Monday, March 30, 2020

FIW: Rogers Rangers & British Regulars

Moving quickly from terrain pieces for the French & Indian War, I recently received my first batch of figures from Northstar for the fledgling British force. I'm starting out rather small with some rangers and regulars.

Two skirmish groups of Rogers Rangers from Northstar Miniatures. 
These were a joy to paint, big chunky figures that make the movement of the paint brush along the contours quite easy.

Two groups of British Regulars in campaign dress from Northstar Miniatures.
Although the colours are rather dull, the officer in full uniform stands out in contrast.

Three groups of natives.
12 of these figures are from the War of 1812 collection but can do double duty with the FIW project. Recently, I added six bow-armed figures to increase the numbers.

The entire force: a tidy contingent for the British!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Frontier Cabin

Having a fair few distressed wooden planks left over from my fort build (link), I decided to try my hand at a frontier cabin. This was partly inspired by various 4Ground offerings but I wanted a something a little more ragged (and I didn't feel like waiting for a delivery) so I dug into my drawers of bits and bobs to throw something together.

The cabin itself has a foam-core ... um... core and is clad with distressed coffee sticks, cut to length. The chimney is carved from blue foam and inscribed with a pencil tip. The roof is clad with Warbases shingles and the entire structure suitably dry-brushed and washed with various colours to give a weathered grey-brown appearance.

The wood shed is, I believe, a Sarissa modern bicycle shed, distressed and weathered (from whence it came, I have no memory). The split logs are simply 1/4" skewers cut to length and "split" with wire cutters to provide the rough cut effect.

The stone well is an old resin piece from who knows where and covered with a balsa cover. The figures are from Front Rank and meant to be used with my War of 1812 collection. For the French & Indian War, I'll need some suitable frontier folk. I'm also considering adding a small vegetable garden and a pig sty.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

War of 1812: Virginia Light Dragoons & militia artillery

Amongst the infantry additions over the last month or so for the Chesapeake campaign, I slipped in two units of American militia artillery. Since the state militia artillery uniforms of various states were, for practical gaming purposes, virtually identical, these could represent artillery from a number of states around the Chesapeake area, including Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. They are rather anachronistic in that they sport the bicorne, set aside earlier by the regular army in favour of shakoes. In a recent order to Wargames Foundry, I slipped in a couple of three pound cannon.

 Once again, I’ve gone with the venerable Old Glory figures. 

As a welcome Xmas gift, Captain Dan whipped up some American militia cavalry for my 1812 collection. Because many (if not all) militia units in the Chesapeake area sported anachronistic uniforms (aka more reminiscent of the American War of Ingratitude), we had to source the figures from the extensive Perry Brothers AWI line. While not a complete match to the requirements for Virginia cavalry, these British AWI cavalry are close. I had relatively little uniform info for this unit besides a couple of plates found online but this wasn’t a real deterrent. One of the advantages of creating a unit like this is that button-counters are usually silent.

Norfolk Light Dragoons
(Perry Miniatures)

Friday, March 20, 2020

Frontier Fort & a new project

Inspired by the wonderful work of Mike at dreispitz.blogspot.com, I decided to try my hand at a new terrain project to complement a new project. Muskets & Tomahawks II has recently been published by NorthStar and a look at the gorgeous figures associated with the release made me take the step into the French & Indian War. So onto another slippery slope...

I've been wanting for some time to build a small stockaded fort for my War of 1812 collection and thought that with new FIW figures winging their way to me through the ether, I'd spend the time waiting by starting on a frontier fort that could be used for the War of 1812 or FIW.

I decided first to try out a test piece based on the version in dreispitz.blogspot.com. The core of the wall section is blue foam mounted on 3mm mdf. The boards are wooden stir sticks, suitably distressed by rough sandpaper and "inaccurate" cutting. I wanted the wooden walls to look as rough cuts so "measure twice, cut once" was replaced with "roughly measure once, roughly cut once."

Satisfied with the test piece, I moved on to try out some corner pieces. Built the same way as the straight piece, I decided to raise the level slightly to provide a bit of  variety in the overall design.

Mid-build, I decided to throw the fort (as it was) out on a table to take a look at it with my existing gabion fortifications (these are from the now defunct Architects Of War). I also put out my Old Glory blockhouse to see how the different elements might fit together. This was also a practical break from the tedious work of cutting and sanding a seemingly unending series of wooden planks.

After much Youtubing, sanding and distressing, I had all the current* pieces together and ready for colouring. All were primed black before grey and white dry-brushing. Over this initial drybrush went a coat of GW Agrax Earthshade, mixed with a bit of GW Contrast SnakeBite Leather. This provided a lovely wood tone. But since wood is rarely brown after any time exposed to the elements, several more layers of greys and tans were dry-brushed on top. I also added a light greenish wash to the lower areas and between some boards to simulate organic growth.

*I say "current" because there is always room for expansion :)

Last step was to finish up the bases in my regular style: wood filler, sand/rocks, dry-brushing, static gras, and tufts. No rocket science here. Et voila!

Another addition from the terrain factory are some new trees. I found some coconut fibre matting (from the local gardening center) and hot-glued this to some spare Woodland Scenics armatures (the coco fibre is a cheap and easily-sourced alternative to rubberized horse-hair). These were then flocked and sealed. The biggest of these trees is approx 9 inches tall! So a nice addition to the collection. Others were made with Woodland Scenics ground foam and placed on multiple-tree bases. Another set mixed in there are some 20+ year old O scale railroad trees that have gone through at least four refurbishments over the years.

And what arrived at my front door yesterday? Northstar British rangers and regulars!

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Chesapeake 1814: starting a new campaign

Good friend Vidal and I have ventured off into a new campaign, this time set during the British campaigns in the Chesapeake Bay in 1814. A general synopsis of the campaign and the rules can be found here: link 

I've been working on building up troops and terrain for this campaign over the last few months. In particular, state militia troops from Virginia and Maryland, and Royal Marines. I've also added a few new buildings to the collection, geared specifically to this campaign, here: link & link. So, after all this work, I thought it high time to start on the campaign. Our first game was a few weeks ago and I unfortunately failed to document it visually. Suffice to say that the American militia (commanded by me) was soundly beaten by the regular troops of Vidal's Crown forces.

After the first campaign turn (Scenario 3, Whiteman’s Tavern), The British gained one Victory Point and captured one sack of supplies.

Last evening, we gathered in the Cambridge Gaming Emporium to fight out the second turn of the campaign. This time up was Scenario 1, Freeing the Prisoners.

Scenario 1, Freeing the Prisoners
With the capture of so many American troops after the recent British raids, the British are moving them to the coast under guard in small, manageable groups. The local militia commander, Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Horry, has learnt that Captain Jonathan Roberts and a contingent of British troops are using a local plantation house and have the prisoners encamped in a field. He is resolved to free his comrades.

The table is flat with the plantation buildings at the Eastern end. The main house is two stories tall and provides hard cover for any troops inside. The other buildings are a single storey and provide light cover.

The PoW camp is made up of tents which do not impede movement or firing. They will simply be knocked down if moved over, the prisoners within fleeing and playing no part in the game. The fenced field to the South is overgrown and counts as Broken Ground. The trees to the North are orchards.

The rail fences provide light cover as will the wagons. The latter may be moved up to 1D6 inches in a turn by any Group of five men or more  spending that turn pushing them.

This game is won by the force which can break their opponent’s Force Morale.

Victory Points: American (2); British (1)

American Force

Advanced Guard
Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Horry, Status II
Captain John James, Status I
Three Groups of 8 Maryland Militia (M)

Captain Robert McCottry, Status I
One Group of 6 Militia Skirmishers (rifles)

Colonel Frank Lee Speeckin, Status II
One Group of 8 Virginia Militia (C&V)

Captain John McCauley, Status I
One Group of 8 Virginia Militia (C&V)

The force deploys its Primary Deployment Point on the Western (left-hand) table edge. The Advanced Guard may use a Secondary Deployment Point which is placed according to the main rules. Only the Advanced Guard may use this and then only if the Skirmishers under Captain McCottry deploy to it before any other troops, representing them leading other units through the surrounding terrain.

The Reserve forces can only enter the table on the turn after all of the Advanced Guard are deployed. They must use the Primary Deployment Point on the Western table edge. All American troops have the Hearth & Home Bonus, reducing their Step Out rating by one.

British Force

Captain Jonathan Roberts, Status III
Two groups of 8 British regulars

Lieutenant Carlton Mellows, Status I
One Group of 6 British light infantry

Captain Rampton Rigsdale Status II
Two Groups of 8 Royal Marines

Your Primary Deployment Point is in the Sumter plantation house. At the start of the game all of your forces are inside the house with the exception of one sentry who may be placed anywhere on the table to raise the alarm if the enemy approach. None of your force may deploy onto the table until the alarm is raised. Groups may not deploy as formations and suffer 1d6 shock immediately when deployed.

A sentry is simply a one-man Group. He may be activated on any two Command Flags of the relevant colour, or on a single Command flag at the end of a turn. He may only activate when he has line of sight to an enemy unit which is deployed on the table. He may raise the alarm when activated by discharging his musket. He may then move and act as normal. If he is engaged by the enemy, by firing or fisticuffs, the noise will serve to alert friendly forces to the enemy’s presence.

Both sides begin with 9 Force Morale.

In the top left can be seen the American Secondary Deployment Point. My plan was to move the Advance Guard through the orchard, hoping to avoid the notice of the British sentry and appear on the far edge, ready to fire on any British troops deploying from the mansion.

The local plantation owner and his family have been disgorged from their home and are discussing the utter inhumanity of their home and property under the control of the hated British.

The sentry, apparently avoiding his duties, chats up one of the plantation girls.

Maryland militia deploy out of sight of the sentry and begin their move into the orchard. The Maryland rifles had preceded them to the far edge of the trees, apparently undetected by the distracted sentry.

The alarm has not yet been raised but the Maryland rifles open fire on the sentry. As he represents a one-man group, his death or rout would trigger a Bad Things Happen roll. Unfortunately, as with the first campaign game, my militia rifles were apparently well-dressed but ill-trained. The sentry survived without a scratch and thus the alarm was raised!

With the alarm raised, Vidal chose to deploy two groups of Royal Marines in the forecourt of the mansion to counter the Maryland move into the orchard.. One group manages the deployment with only one shock but the other is assessed six!

As well as the Royal Marines, two groups of British regulars deploy: one to the rear of the mansion (clearly set to fire the building) and one to the rear of the "workers' cottages."

I had chosen to this point to move my Maryland troops through the orchard in formation. Once closer to the British troops, I split the groups up. Why? It had become quite clear in the first game that militia troops without the Controlled Volley characteristic are difficult to control once volleys began. My plan here was to occupy some of the British with single-group firing and maneuver with the others. This proved to be a mistake as there was little room to maneuver while maintaining the needed cover of the orchard. Single groups at long range have little chance of inflicting any real damage (at least with my dice rolls....ugh) and as it turned out, the Maryland troops were fairly static once at the edge of the orchard. I could have easily left them in the formation and been able to spread hits and more easily activate them.

Maryland militia groups have split from their formation and are readying to fire on the deploying British troops from the cover of the orchard.

Maryland rifles begin to exchange fire with the British regulars hiding amongst the goods scattered around the "workers' cottages."

So now the stupid moment! This is something I know full well and chose to ignore for this battle (and truth be told, in the first campaign battle as well). Rifles are the perfect weapon to pester an enemy from long range. They are not .... repeat, NOT... so good at close ranges. They take two actions to reload, are vulnerable to formed troops, and are, quite simply, tempting targets. By deploying the Maryland rifles to the front of the orchard, I gave up their most valuable asset... long range. These guys can hit on 5s & 6s out to 36 inches. The other open flank of the battlefield would have been better-suited to their abilities, although this would have meant sacrificing surprise. The sentry would have easily seen them and raised the alarm earlier. As it turned out, this mattered little and I ended up squandering a valuable asset.

The foremost of the Maryland infantry groups has been forced back into the orchard. Meanwhile, the Leader with the rifles has been shot and killed (see above for self-deprecation). The only good news at this point is that one of the Royal Marine groups (the one with the six shock) has voluntarily withdrawn behind the "workers' cottages."

The Maryland troops at the front of the orchard take fire from the Royal Marines and slink back into the orchard. The only good news here from the American perspective is that the British regulars near the "workers' cottages" have been found to have damp squibs and fire now at half effect. This is almost wholly mitigated by the force commander (Level III) directing their fire. They've already killed the Maryland rifles commander and are causing shock, despite the heavy cover for the skirmishers.

British lights deploy from the mansion with only one shock.

Virginia troops begin to arrive from the Primary Deployment Point and move forward to help the beleaguered Marylanders.

The British regulars behind the mansion complete their task and the building has been set alight. That's one automatic VP for the Brits, regardless of the battle's outcome.

The Virginians continue their advance and begin exchanging fire with the British lights (who also seem to have damp squibs...the British quartermaster has obviously failed in his duties). Unfortunately, the Virginian effort proves too little too late...

Vidal had recovered his second Royal Marines group and formed them up with their brethren and the regulars to begin an advance into the orchard. While militia can sometimes stand up to regulars in a firefight (at least for a short while), it's another thing entirely in Fisticuffs (especially when one group of Marylanders is caught unloaded). The sweep through the orchard is swift and deadly. The American Force Morale drops quickly to 2 and we called it a (very obvious) British victory. Side note: The Maryland rifles evaded the charge of the British regulars... but further proving my Dumb Ass point above.

Vidal gains two Victory Points from the battle: one for winning the scenario and one for burning a major building. This brings us to an Aggregate VP total of 3 in the British favour. Small mercies, however... the burning of the building brings some small recognition of the crisis to the federal and state governments and one 8-man militia unit and Status I Leader will now be added to the American force for every subsequent scenario. The more they burn and loot... the more reinforcements arrive. Of course, more militia is a double-edged sword!

Militia is going to be a challenge to learn how to control. They have inferior characteristics to the British and for most scenarios, I will have fewer overall Command Initiatives spread around my leaders. There is  an argument not to create formations because they are difficult to control after firing begins. Although, if in a defensive posture, this would not be such an issue. Splitting militia groups up could be an answer but the generally inferior command structure of the Americans can make this difficult as well. One thing I need to drum into my head is the proper use of rifle-armed skirmishers: use their long range and stay away from the temptation to get closer to the enemy.