Monday, October 27, 2008

The Marne

I can only report minor progress on this weekend's work... I made two more walls for my sculpey building, dullcoted my Ancient Gallic/British light horse and mounted them to their FOG bases, and finished up my medieval cogs. Next on the list is my 15mm Auxilia.

In compliment to my slow painting progress, I have also been making slow progress through Georges Blonde's The Marne It's a good read, and I have to say that it has helped me get a better perspective on the way the French fought in 1914 and has given me a certain sympathy for the average French soldier. The book details how the officers (even a General at one point) led the charges from the front, and conspicuously walked around out of cover to assuage the fears of their menm (unfortunately, this semed to lead to higher-than-expected officer casualties :-/). There seems to have been no shortage of heroism, although in hindsight (where everybody's vision is clearer), it may have been a little reckless with all those Maxim machine guns the Germans toted around...

The point being that the French did not lack the willingness or courage to fight, and when seasoned, according to British Major-General E. L. Spears, developed more modern tactics fairly quickly, although not heterogeneously throughout the army. The French also seemed to be able to turn from their retreat and attack at times when the Germans had completely written off their ability to form a coherent force. Just the morale effect of turning to fight after a long retreat seemed to reinvigorate much of their army.

Here are a couple of wargaming-oriented tidbits that have whet my appetite:

- According to the book, there were groups of French infantry caught behind the swift German advance. If they were not captured then they could form roving bands of maquis that sabotaged German supply and communication lines. If caught, they were shot as partisan franc-tireurs. Blond states that the most famous of these groups consisted of about 300 infantry raiding in the Ardennes forest, led by a Captain named de Colbert. Eventually he was hunted by two divisions of German Landwehr, who cut a swath of destruction to deprive him of the resources he needed to carry on his campaign. The unit disbanded in December of 1914. Wouldn't that be an interesting campaign...

Also, don't try to Google it - you'll just end up with Star Trek or The Colbert Report.

- On September 6th, the Moroccan Division under General Foch was ordered to advance on Congy, France. The advance would take them through the Marshes of St. Gond, up the road to Congy and into an assault. The Moroccans of the Blondlat Brigade were the forward unit, advancing from from Bannes, located in the middle of the marshes. They silently began their advance at 2:00 in the morning. When they emerged they were greeted by German searchlights and machine-guns, which were joined by rifle and field gun fire, all visible to the command headquarters that had set up on the high ground south of the swamp. The Moroccans attacked through the night and into the morning. 

I'll not say how it ended, but that sounds like a pretty cool scenario -- A night attack by Moroccans through a swamp and up a road guarded by Germans with searchlights. Very cool, and also historical. I need to get some Moroccans now!

The basic set up can be seen on Google Maps for Congy. There is a depressed area (the marsh), hemmed in by high ground in the North (German-held Congy), more high ground in the South (French G.H.Q.), and a Plateau in the west.

If anyone sets up a scenario based on this, let me know! I'd be very interested in hearing how it went!

Until next time!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sculpey House - Round 2

OK, so I really intend for it to be the ground level of a 3-storey townhouse, and more of a shop than a house. This week I completed the square, for better or for worse. I made two joints, baked the clay, and then joined the two halves together.

In order to get the halves to stand up, I rolled out two snakes and set them at 90-degree angles.

Then I stood a wall on each of the snakes, with their inner corners touching.

Next, I put a thicker roll over the corner and pushed it down inside until it sealed up nicely.

Then, I shaved each side of the corner even with its respective wall.

Simple enough! I baked each half and then repeated the process to complete the other two corners.

The process was not without its mishaps, though. The thin walls proved to be weak above the windows and I actually had pieces snap off. It was easy enough to repair -- just smooth it over with some more clay and re-bake. I decided to add some reinforcement along the tops of the windows as a preventative measure, though. It looks pretty rough, but we'll see how it paints up.

The finished level. On the cardstock below it you can see the beginning plans for the second and third floors. I will be reusing templates more as I make the other floors, so all-in-all I will only have to make two pages of templates (or so I hope...).

But wait, there's more! I also painted up my two remaining cogs. I haven't decided what colors I'll use on them (to liven them up and differentiate them), but the hard work is done.

And I made a sign to hang outside of my cafe/shop/hash bakery/whatever out of sculpey.

I also picked up a bit of 28mm terrain and some extra 15mm medieval figs from my friend Ron at The Game Connection. It's a graveyard set from Fighting Scenes Terrain. Now I'm going to need a church and walls...

It's a pretty nice set, fully painted with some gravestones and a tomb. The tomb wasn't as detailed as I would have liked, so I washed the stonework, drybrushed it a little more, and painted the door.

I really need to get cracking on my 15mm Romans... they've been sitting around forever, and I need to get them off the nails so that I can get my Cog Wars crews on there!

Until next time...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Super Sculpey Building - Round 1

So this is something I've wanted to try for a while now. I have always wanted to find a system for making houses time- and cost-efficiently. I purchased some Linka molds , but those seem to be better suited to 15mm-20mm scale (they work great for Flames of War). Then I came across this tutorial over on TMP. It was for 15mm, but I thought it would work great for my WWI stuff. I wanted to have a decent number of French townhouses so that I could do a little more urban gaming with my WWI figs.

I picked up some Super Sculpey and set to work making the first level of an early 20th century building...

To start, I sketched out a rough idea of what kind of building I was going to make, then made some measurements on the rough sketch (the sketch can be seen in the background in the image below). I then use the sketch and measurements as a guide and drew out the plan of each wall on card stock. I envisioned a townhouse-style building with a shop of some sort on the first floor. I decided to make it a corner shop, and drew up a plan that put a picture windows on two adjoining sides.

Also, at this point I might mention that I bought a glass cutting board at Wal-Mart and I am using that as a makeshift drafting board, and it will also be what the scupley is cut out on and what goes into the oven. I was looking for something that was smooth, as flat as possible, and could withstand the oven and the cutting board seemed to fit the bill.

I then cut out the plan with an Exacto knife and ruler.

These are the finished card stock templates. The townhouse will be a square 4" and 2" high per floor. These dimensions match with the Ruined Brick Corner Townhouse that i have from Miniatures Building Authority.

The first step in the sculpting process was planning a Sam-Fisher-style covert operation to retrieve the polytetrafluoroethylene-coated cylindrical pressure-exertion apparatus from the kitchen without my wife's knowledge.

I then followed the basic directions from that TMP link. I used a double-thickness of hardboard to control the depth of the Scupley as I rolled it out.

The double thickness seemed like it would be too thick, and I would be able to make more buildings if I used less clay, so I rerolled the sculpey using only one thickness.

The final thickness was about 1/8 of an inch.

I got so wrapped up in cutting it out that I forgot to take any pictures of the process. It's pretty obvious, though. I laid the templates on the rolled-out scupley and cut it out with the Exacto knife. It's a cutting board so I wasn't worried about scratching it. After the first couple of cuts, I did use my metal rule over the template to make the lines a little straighter and preserve the card stock. The card stock could flex slightly or be shaved by the exacto knife. It wasn't too difficult, though.

After cutting out the pieces, I left them where they were and baked them. There seem to be hundreds of recipes for baking scupley on the Intertron, and a lot of them start off with something to the effect of "First, throw out the directions on the box..." I actually decided to follow the directions on the box and it seems to have worked out fine. 275 degrees for 15 minutes...

Here are the final pieces propped up with my MBA buildings. It looks like this just might work!

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WWI and More

I have been trying to post regularly, since I am hoping that this blog will help me paint regularly and work though all the bare lead I have lying around, but life intervened and I missed Monday's post. I didn't stop painting, however. Since last Thursday, I have painted up two medieval cogs from Old Glory's line of 15mm resin ships.

They actually painted up pretty quickly. I had these two basecoated black and then left them to sit for a few months. They are painted mostly by drybrushing lighter and lighter shades over the black, and both of these went from black to this in a few hours:

I did make progress on my WWI minis, finishing off six more early war French poilus (not including the dullcote):

One thing that I am happy about is that I think I am through 'experimenting' and have developed a definite system for painting these guys. These ones turned out pretty nice.

Sneak preview! In keeping with the "and more" theme, I also painted up a pack of Old Glory 15s Gallic light horse for use with my Ancient British for Field of Glory. These guys are not 100% complete (the spears and shoes being obvious, but there are some other touch-ups I want to do), but hopefully I will finish them off tomorrow. I will post more and better pictures when they are finished and based up.

My goal is to get a few battle groups for Field of Glory going so that I can start figuring out the rules. I've also got a pack of Old Glory 15s Roman Auxilia on deck and basecoated... they're next and then they can chase the light horse around while I learn to play!

Until next time...

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Finishing the French Hotchkiss

This past week I've been doing some painting, but I also decided to finish off my French Hotchkiss HMG. I took a series of photos of the basing. When I first got into miniatures, it was sequences like this that helped me figure out the basics, and the more people that I can help get into or stick with miniature wargaming the better...

For the base I used my dremel to cut a 2" x 3" rectangle of hardboard. This is the same stuff that you can buy with holes in it for use as "pegboard," just without the holes. I'll glue the gun down to an offset position to make room for other gun crew on the base so that they can easily be moved as a unit on the board.

Also, when I was toying with the gun to see exactly how the pieces were going to fit into the gunner's hands, I managed to snap off the rear handle of the gun. Rather than glue it back on the gun, I glued it into the gunner's hand.

The HMG barrel still had a slight downward tilt (barely noticable, but it bothered me) even after tweaking the tripod legs as much as I cared to, so I decided to build up the base a little to give the gun the desired level or slightly upward tilt. For that I used Elmer's Wood Filler.

I spread the wood filler on with a stick about where I would place the gun, and then left it to dry overnight.

At this scale, I usually use white glue and flock for the basing, so I used an old brush to spread on some Elmer's Glue-All (no, I don't own any Elmer's stock...), slightly thinned down with water.

Then I liberally coated the base, poured on some Woodland Scenics flock, and left that to dry overnight. I don't usually tap off the flock until the glue is dry because it can soak through a thinner layer of flock and darken it.

The flocked base. I'm not sure what to do about the sides at the moment. I flocked the sides on my German Maxim base, but it seemed to rub off. Maybe I'll just paint the sides brown. In the future I may slightly bevel the edges with my dremel to make it less of an issue.

After that, I just glued the gun to the base with white glue, and glued the gunner on with the same. The base looked pretty bare so I decided to add some clump foliage.

And there you have a finished Renegade Hotchkiss HMG.

Until next time...

Monday, October 6, 2008

WWI Inventory

In the interest of making progress on my WWI figures I decided to step back and consider at the big picture. This is what it looks like:

This is the current status of my early WWI stuff:

The French:
  • 16 Chasseurs painted & based
  • 2 Brigade Games 75s, painted and based
  • 2 Command, painted and based
  • 12 cavalry, painted and based (including 3 command)
  • 20 infantry in red trousers, painted (some of these are command figures, but I'm not sure which exactly...)
  • 6 infantry, WIP
  • 8 infantry, basecoated
  • 16 more infantry, ready for basecoating. 8 of them are bombers
  • 1 Hotchkiss HMG, painted and awaiting basing (more on this later!)
  • 1 Hotchkiss HMG, assembled (not shown)
  • 16 Marines, still in the packaging
The Germans:
  • 16 German infantry painted & based, a combination of pickelhaube/gasmask and feldmütze, painted and based
  • Maxim HMG, painted and based
  • 7.7cm field gun, pained and based
  • 4 command, painted and based
  • 4 command, awaiting basecoat
  • 2 Maxim HMGs, still in the packaging
  • 2 unopened packs of skirmishing infantry
  • 2 unopened packs of Jägers
  • 1 unopened pack of bombers
These are the Germans:

These are the current French WIP:

These are the French:

These are the Chasseurs:

The French support weapons:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Dirty Minis

As promised, more pics of my WWI minis... I've got pretty much every early war WWI pack that Renegade makes for the French and Germans, with the exception of one of the French Chasseur packs and the German cavalry. Most of the rulesets that I would use these with call for individually based minis, and I have opted for the 1" square thin bases from Litko. 1" seemed to give a reasonable amount of footing for the various poses, although sometimes I do wish I had gone with 1" round bases just for the look of it, but I'm not really that concerned about it. I have some Late War British and German stuff that I haven't started on yet, and I may use the round bases with those.

Click on the pics for a better view...

These were some of the first 28mm scale figures that I had painted, and so some "experimenting" with different techniques (block painting, dry brushing, etc) will be noticeable if you care to look closely.

The rule sets that I have are Contemptible Little Armies, Price of Glory, and Warhammer Great War. I am not sure about the other two (I read them a while ago and haven't really played them...), but Price of Glory treats the gun crew figures individually so I've based them separately from their weapons. If I ever find the need I may make a movement tray for the artillery piece.

For the HMG below I made what I guess I would call an "integral movement tray." I based the gun offset on a base large enough to also accommodate the loader. It seems to have worked out pretty well in the couple of games I've played.

The latest thing I've been working on is "dirtying up" the ones I've painted so far. I have a bunch that I've finished down to the Dullcote and I decided they looked to clean to be WWI soldiers, especially after reading about the grimy, dusty state of all the soldiers in Georges Blonde's The Marne. So I went ahead and drybrushed some very light brown over the lower parts of the minis...

That's a pic of the same model, side-by-side, one clean and one dirty. I'm pleased with the look. What's the consensus? Now I need to get in some games with them...

I have a couple of other WWI albums in my Picasa account: here and here.

Until next time...