Thursday, March 27, 2014

Legation walls...

I visited a local model railroad shop yesterday and sourced some new styrene tile sheets to experiment on some walls for the legation compound. You can see the results below. I decided to cut the walls from solid wood, 1/4" thick and 2" high. There were a couple of reasons for this. First, I wanted something more solid and durable than foamcore. Second, I wanted to screw and glue the walls to the base. Yes, glue and screw. Normally, carpenters glue would suffice but the base in this particular case is 18" x 6". By screwing and gluing the walls to the base, I hope to avoid most (if not all) of the inevitable warping on a base of this size. It was bit tedious to drill pilot holes and put in the screws (from the bottom, obviously) but the end result is as solid as I think I could make it. An added bonus is that all the walls are a uniform height (more so than I could ever achieve with foamcore, even with the most careful cuts).The wall caps are two strips cut from the new tile sheets and hot-glued at angles. A single strip from the sheet has been added along the top to cover the join.

An end view of the wall mounted on mdf base. Here you can see the small strip of balsa I glued to the top of the wooden wall to provide an angled base for the tile strips. I struggled for a bit about this. I first tried cutting a long strip of card and scoring it down the middle to crate a tent the length of the wall. I could then glue the tile sheet over it. This didn't work so well and I came upon the simpler solution shown above.

Another shot of my first attempt at wall capping. Here you can see the corner posts of 1/2" square dowel. These will be capped with suitable ornamentation. And the walls will be suitably textured (stucco of some sort, I think).
The other end of the base, showing temporary corner caps. The gap in the wall will have a small wooden gate (or a wrought-iron version, if I can find something suitable from which to build it).

The entire base. You can imagine how a base of this length could warp significantly. Hopefully, I've mitigated the possibility with the screw & glue.
So why a base 18" x 6"? Good question. After putting the legation building and Chinese cottages together to see how they could be arranged on a base, I realized the whole complex would need a base 18" x 24". My favourite plastic storage boxes can take a maximum base size of 18" x 12" and a 18" x 24" unit would be a real pain to move around.  "Simple," says I. Make two 18" x 12" bases that fit together and store in two plastic cases. Then, of course, the megalomaniacal side of my brain took over (ask people about my D-Day game and the 12 feet of beachfront!). If I could make two more 18" x 6" bases, I could have four bases, all with outer walls on three sides and an open fourth side to match up with any of the other bases. I could then have two 18" x 18" walled compounds, or one 18" x 24" and one 18" x 12". Make sense? Maybe some pictures to explain...
The full 18" x 24" compound. You can see the base split down the middle and the spot for the planned main gate (front right of the picture).
The same two pieces shifted apart to show the split more clearly.

The new 18"x 6" base married to one of the 18"x 12" bases.

And the same two bases shifted to show the split.


While perusing a hobby site today, I came across a set of rules I wanted to purchase. Great, I thought, there's a downloadable pdf version. I can purchase it and satisfy my instant gratification requirement. I put it (and a supplement) into the shopping cart and proceeded to check out. I was faced with the perfectly normal requirement to create an account on the site. I do this, filling in the standard name, address, email, password stuff. So far, so good. Next, it asked me to copy the scrambled Captcha text into the box. Yup, no problem. Doesn't accept it. Hmmm...try again, and again, and again....and again. Actually, I lost count how many times I tried. I even tried it on my iPad, thinking it might make a difference. Nope! OK, stepping away from my laptop before the frustration overwhelms me.

Pause, do something else for a few minutes...but I'm stubborn and determined to crack this code.
I go back to the homepage and  see there's a create account link. Hmmm, maybe I can get in the back door. I create an account (after filling in all the normal name, address, email, password fields). It sends me a confirmation email from which I go back to the site to fill in another Captcha box (sigh). It accepts my efforts!!

Now, back to the store and choose my stuff. On to the shopping cart, where it asks me for my name, address, email and password again. Yes, again. Am I not already signed into the damned site? I check the icon in the top right of the page. Yes, damn straight I'm logged in as me! Oh well, I've come this far and spent this much time already. Form filled out...and next? Another bloody Captcha box. Deep breaths...fill it in and, with extreme deliberation, click the continue button. And?

Success! Well, sort of. I pay through PayPal  and an email is generated. I check my Yahoo account and get this:

Thank you for your payment for XXXXXXXXXX. Your payment has been received and your purchase is now active.

Active? What the hell does that mean? In other purchases of this sort, a link is provided (or at the very least some directions to find a download link). Off I go back to the site. Under my account? Nope! Any obvious link on the main page (that might perhaps say something like...oh, I don't download your purchase, click here)? Nope! Oh look, there's a Download Library link on the side menu. Let's try that. Hmmm...two more options now: Public Access Library and Private Access Library. OK, try the latter. After perusing a list of not so obvious options I find with some effort my purchases and some other extras. Finally! And successfully downloaded.
So that took a least 45 minutes to do something that should have taken no more than five.
And before anyone accuses me of being a technological neophyte, I do work in the IT industry. And I shop online alot! That site just simply sucks!
Rant over.
Oh, and though I wasn't going to mention the site address, I'm annoyed enough to do it anyway: link

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Legation compound grows

Some quick progress shots below of the Boxer rebellion legation. I have built two small Chinese-style buildings to populate the compound. The compound is not modelled on any particular legation in Peking at the time but is designed to be rather generic. In fact, I plan to have a removable flag pole (on the roof?) that can be swapped out, depending on the scenario.

A small Chinese building made from foam core and various other materials. The roof is made from some plastic tile sheeting from my bits box. Of course, it will all be base-coated black and dry-brushed up with various colours). I realize the style of tiling is not strictly correct but I think it gives an adequate impression. The curved roof was a great pain to get right. I had planned to have the roof removable but as I was progressing, it became increasingly clear that that wouldn't be possible without some more serious designing thought  (maybe for future attempts). The good news is that over the years I've found that even though I spend much time making building interiors accessible, their use is limited and rare.

A slightly larger Chinese building, created in the same fashion. It was originally meant to be a stables (or mews, depending on your level of picky-ness) but as with most of my building projects, the plan changed a number of times mid-construction.

A shot of the legation building with the new Chinese buildings. The entire complex will be surrounded with a high wall and main gate to the front. One or two smaller gates will probably also be added at the rear. The tiled courtyard and lion statue were just added for effect (although I may keep the lion).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Boxer Rebellion legation compound...a start

I've been mulling over some terrain pieces for the Boxer Rebellion project and focusing mainly on creating a small legation compound. My first thought was to try and track down some or all of the Old Glory legation sets that were produced in the 90s and subsequently discontinued. These would make things much easier.

Old Glory legation sets.

Unfortunately, finding any or some of these would seem to be a fruitless exercise. So, on to the interwebs for a search for images and inspiration for scratch-building. After some searching, I decided I would do something like this from the SOTCW blog:

This a smallish (!) compound with one European-style central legation building surrounded by a walled courtyard and two or three Chinese buildings. I think this type of set up could be a good start for the terrain-making. The flags could even be swapped out to represent different legations, depending on the scenario.

Then I saw the one below from the same website. It really resonated with me aesthetically and got me puttering away at my desk.

I found in my vast pile of stuff that'll some day be useful a Lionel "O" scale plastic building. This, I thought would be a good base to work from as the central European-style building of the legation compound.

Lionel Municipal Building in "O" scale, box cover photo.

Building facade, as per the instructions.

I decided I liked the flat roof of the version on the SOTCW blog and accordingly sliced off the wall peaks of the end pieces. I also have in the box o' stuff some other Lionel buildings, bought years ago for a song and patiently waiting for me ever since. I scavenged a flat roof section that fit the current model perfectly. I also added some wall decorations from balsa.

A shot of the interior, showing the second floor and interior staircase.

Roofing details added. The corner fencing pieces were designed to go over the upper story windows. The short walls between the fenced corners are made from foam board. I also dug through my bits box and came up with some sidewalk pieces re-purposed as a surrounding terrace. The short wall on the end terrace was a piece from who-knows-where but I only had one so I needed to scratch-build the shorter version next to the front steps to match (a bit fiddly but worth it). The corners of the terraces will eventually see sculptures (lions maybe?) or some shrubbery.

A better shot of the end terrace with resin wall.

Rear view. The original model came with a loading ramp. I chose to replace it with an extension of the terrace and stairs up to a small landing (made of plastic and cardboard). I stole the stairs from the interior second floor. I've realized over the years that little or no interior detail is required, since the buildings are rarely opened and when they are, it's better to have as little clutter as possible.

More roof details. The foamboard walls have been capped with card and a central chimney has been added from various wood and card pieces. I need to source out some tubing for the two chimney stacks and probably add some brick sheeting to the lower faces of the chimney structure. 

Many parts of the building and the compound will have added sandbags and crates, barrels etc to add a besieged look. Must start making sandbags...sigh.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

New stuff & a question of aesthetics

As mentioned in a previous post, I braved a terrible Canadian blizzard of epic proportions (no, really) to collect my Old Glory order that had been fetched from Cold Wars by Vidal. Besides all the Boer War figures for Daniel and the Boxer Rebellion reinforcements for me, I found this gem:

This is Old Glory's Colonial river boat. It measures a grand 14 inches long and almost four inches across the beam. This is gonna look so cool with sandbag revetments for the guns (fore and aft) and a sun awning above the upper deck. I can see the British Marines wading ashore under the cover of her guns while assaulting a Boxer/Chinese fort along the Yanghtzee River on the way to relieve Peking. Hmmm, I'll need some suitable sailor figures. Ahhh, grand ideas!

And a question. I'm trying out some new movement stands for my six-figure Carlist Wars cavalry units. Do the figures look too far apart or is it merely a trick of the aesthetics? Does the contrast between bare wood and sculpted bases create an illusion of more space? 

A little CoC in the afternoon...

I sauntered over to Cambridge yesterday afternoon through a blizzard that dumped at least 20cm of snow on us...turned a one hour drive into two and quarter hours. Why? You may ask and I would answer that picking up my Old Glory order that Vidal had brought back from Cold Wars was incentive enough. And a chance to play a little hooky from work and game on a weekday afternoon. More on the OG order in another post...for now, a game of Chain of Command

We pitted my 1940 French against Vidal's newly painted Warlord  German infantry (ostensibly later war figs but they subbed in as 1940 fellas). The scenario was the Probe (scenario two from the main rule-book, I believe). As the French commander, I needed to stop Vidal from moving his forces along the length of the game board and off of my baseline (he actually only needed to move one team/section/vehicle off of my baseline to win). Vidal's Germans started with a four bound move in the patrol phase. This hampered my deployment of jump-off points severely. In fact, he was four feet up a six foot table before I could even begin to start considering my options. He had control of the central village and its cover and I thought it would be almost impossible to hold him off. The French squads proved to be tough nuts to crack, however. The LMG team has one LMG and five rifleman, so 13 dice for firing (8 + 5). Compare this to the much-vaunted MG34 team of one gunner and two riflemen for a total of 12 dice (10 + 2). Of course, it's not always a straight fire-fight between LMG teams. The rest of the sections are obviously in play as well. But we had no idea of the strength of the French LMG teams. And the French platoon gets an extra junior leader who can order about any section or team in the platoon (the platoon sergeant). Oh yes, and we can't forget about the rifle-grenade section. This is an amalgamation of the three rifle-grenadiers from the rifle sections and one from the platoon command, commanded by a junior leader. Eight dice that ignore a target's cover makes for a handy little team. 

The Germans, of course, have their own advantages. Two senior leaders is a big plus, and is deceptive in its effect. With an second senior leader, you can bring one onto the table early to direct the action and rally shock from your units. Meanwhile, the second senior leader can stay off-board to help with the management of reserves. Having them both on the table almost ensures unit activations and rallying. And the Germans in 1940 have three sections in their basic platoons, versus the French three. This provides a fair amount of tactical flexibility (and an extra MG34!). German junior leaders can also direct the fire of their LMG teams and add their personal leader bonuses to the fire. So those 12 dice mentioned above become 14 when the junior leader is personally directing the fire.

I was able to get Vidal's Force Morale and command dice down to four after some brutally Pyrrhic fighting and he actually was able to get his Pz38(t) off of my board edge, with only two Force Morale points remaining and two command dice. A Pyrrhic victory if there ever was one. We also learned that Panhard armoured cars are not the best anti-armour weapons (at least when coupled with my atrocious die-rolling). We even had some house-clearing when a French section assaulted the main floor of one of the buildings. The assault was successful (and fairly inexpensive in terms of casualties). But then what? There were two more floors above, both occupied by German LMG teams. Did I really need to do that? Well, the game ended before I needed to make that decision.

Thanks to Vidal for another enjoyable game!

A French section advances across an open field in Tactical mode: six-man LMG team on the left, four-man rifle team on the right, and section leader in the middle. Crusader figures from my collection.

A German section occupies the walled yard of a very pretty Miniature Building Authority house. Plastic Warlord figures from Vidal's collection.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cold Wars...didn't happen :(

Well, the much-anticipated trip to Cold Wars did not happen, but only myself to blame. Thursday afternoon saw everything packed and ready to go. I was going to leave for Kingston in the late afternoon to stay there then venture to Lancaster PA the next day with Michael & Phil. "Oh" says I, "Don't forget the passport." I duly grab it from my desk drawer and what do my wondering eyes see? That it expired in January. Doh! Good thing I checked then and not at the border.
So Cold Wars was a bust but I made the most of the weekend and carried on to Kingston for some relaxation and gaming with Michael & Phil. In between the laziness and the drinking, we managed to get in a few games. On Friday we slid on down to Nexus Games and played with my Carlist Wars collection. Only one photo from the game came out in focus (and no, I hadn't been drinking). We used Field of Battle from Piquet and experienced a quick, fun game. The highlight for me (even though I was on the losing side of it) was the Isabellino guard battalion routed in melee by Carlist guerilleros on a 10 v 1 dice roll split. This is one of the selling points for me about these rules. It's not gonna happen often, but there is still the chance that it can and when it's usually pretty spectacular. And this proved to be the turning point of the game. The Isabellinos never recovered and soon lost their Army Morale.
Phil contemplating the moves of his Carlist forces.
He's obviously concerned about the massive Isabellino cavalry wing.
Saturday, Michael and I tried out a small WWI naval scenario, pitting the Russian fleet against German pre-dreadnoughts. No pictures of that one, I'm afraid. We also discussed at length an idea for a 1:6000 WWII naval project. I'd produce the models and Michael would produce some fast-play rules. Each to his forte, I suppose. This may never see the light of day but it's always fun to banter about possible projects.
So, all in all, not such a bad alternative to Cold Wars. Good food, good games, and good company. And all without the driving and extra expense. Just too bad we didn't get to see friends at the convention.
And of course, HotLead in two weeks!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Terrain building blitz!

I recently finished a week off from work, and with nothing else to do I dove into a terrain building blitz for my ongoing 28mm Boer War project. As a result I have nearly finished all the terrain required for this project. My recent completions include: barbed wire cattle fences, stone walls/sangars, long grass patches, boulders, modular roads, railway tracks, telegraph poles, a cemetery, and a British blockhouse.

I also finished construction on a small railway station, but this has yet to be painted. I have only to build some kopjes (pronounced "copies"). These will be simple foam hills with steep rock outcroppings and vegetation. I hope you enjoy my recent additions and would love to hear your feedback...