Sunday, January 26, 2020

Home made Bocage/dense hedgerow 20-28mm

Off I pottered to my local model railway store, hoping to score a few bits for the 20mm WW2 set up.  I found to my (very mild) horror that the long standing bastion of cheap terrain for gaming, Javis has stopped manufacturing its venerable hedgerow; the one GW used to repackage and charge twice the price for!

Hey, I used to be expensive, yet you still bought me...
Flummoxed, I looked at the alternatives, and they were all pretty crappy - square green foam strips of a very regular size, and only half an inch or so tall. Fine for a trimmed garden, but no good for a centuries old French farm boundary.  A radical solution would be required; given that I wasn't going to pay for some of the very nice, but expensive, alternatives from the various terrain companies out there...

I formulated a quick solution, basically I'd make my own and try at least to make them superior to the alternatives, whilst not being too expensive.  As a start, I picked up a pack of Woodland Scenics' Clump Foliage:

About £7
 This would provide the base for my plan.  But there was some legwork to do first.

Modern French Bocage

Historical training diagram...
So one obvious point, that escapes no WW2 wargamer or historian, is that Bocage is freakishly big.  It certainly didn't escape allied training manuals as you can see above.  Very few model hedges even approach the scale, or the randomness, of such terrain.  Not even what is presented below, as it lacks a tree every twenty feet; but I do my best.

To kick off, the hedges would need substantial earthen banks, which I made by taking two layers of 5mm thick foam core - roughly 4cm/1.5inch wide - and carving to a steep angle.

Well camouflaged here
On top of these I added card templates.  In this case each section is 15cm/6inch long and was initially drawn onto cereal box card; the pattern is simply a bushy, cloudlike one, anybody should be able to draw it!  Cutting them out with scissors is another matter.  Small support struts of foamcore can be seen above to help the card stand up straight once glued to the centre of the earthen banks.

Airbrush action 
Next I gave everything a black spray undercoat.  Thereafter I realised I needed to seal and texture the banks, which was easily done with some cheap tile filler.  The benefit of tile filler is low cost and water solubility.  Two thinned down coats of filler were painted roughly on to the whole, the latter with a bit of extra roughening done as it dried with a stiff brush.

Once this was done I painted the banks with dark brown craft store acrylic, and then drybrushed them up to an acceptable texture.

So far a clean process  
Now it is time to apply the foliage.  The trick here is a simple, but slow, and incredibly messy one; time for a disposable pot, lots of PVA glue, a little water and our clump foliage.

It's about to get OCD grim 
After a lot of experimentation, I concluded that about a 5-1 mix of PVA to water, made for a thin-ish goo into which torn-up bits of clump foliage could be mixed.  Then the only really effective way to apply this to the card forms proved to be by hand.  Not this writers favourite method, but it worked the best.  

Work on only one side of the form at a time, by which I mean it will need to dry completely before working on the opposite side.  This in my experience took several days, as that foam holds a lot of moisture. Lay each side flat and face up to dry unless you want a lot of the foliage to fall off while you are absent.  Once dry the composition will be pretty darned tough.

As part of the process gaps are fine as only the black core of the hedge will show through, as an advantage, different thicknesses of hedge can be built up.

Once both sides have been done, you will have something a bit like this.

Time for some corrections 
A final pass can now be made, with smaller pieces of foliage prepared in the same way, to cover the 'seam' along the centre of the hedge, and fill any particularly egregious gaps.  Once this was dry, I gave the foliage two successive dry-brushes of yellow green paint, to dapple some light on the leaves.  and then finally added some static grass to the banks for texture.

The net result is pretty reasonable, and presents a pretty natural looking country hedge, suitable in this build for 20mm or 28mm gaming.

I made 6 strips in this pass, but there was a fair bit of foliage remaining, and so I think one bag could make eight 15cm/6inch sections with ease.  I intend to make some more with farm gates or other passing points at a later point.

20mm Germans for scale
As to the time I've alluded to, it's mainly the hanging around for things to dry that meant these took three weeks to assemble.  Cost wise, it was mostly scrap other than the foliage pack; it did use a lot of PVA too, but that was cheap craft store product.  I think for about £10-15 ($12-18) it would be possible to make 8-10 pieces on this scale.

Well, that's all for now.


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Dragon Rampant - Boduria vs The Desert Dead


It turns out my previous game of DR was back in August; I am truly slack at these AAR's!  Also the photos were taken solely on my mobile phone, and in middling light with no flash, the results are marginal.  But for the purposes of full disclosure, here we are:

Bodurians seek to defend their Western borders from the ravages of the Undead 
Skeletons and Mummies from ancient tombs arise
Regimented infantry and more oppose them 
Th undead implacably advance 
The Bodurians move swiftly to the river crossings 
Volksima, personification of  Winter advances upon the enemy

Deities face off - Volksima is to be victorious
Cavalry and our Witch command outflank the Undead 
Wolfen Hussars charge home 
Chariots attempt to charge Werewolves 
Too Little, too late
The scenario as I recall required each player moving units off the middle of the opposite long table edge, on a battlefield where all terrain was lethally dangerous.  We agreed the river had to be impassable except at the three fords, marked by the swamp tiles.  As it was all terrain proved to act as if impassable, with the table turning into something akin to a maze instead.  My forces had much the easier time with command rolls, and got the better of most combats, so on this occasion I had a fairly easy victory on my hands.

All good fun though.

That's all for now.


Monday, January 13, 2020

Painting Oddments

Trawling through the camera and mobile phone, there are a bunch of records of items I've done in the last few months.  As I'll most certainly not post about them individually, here we'll rush through them all.

First of all, I've come back to the Conan miniatures and started churning out a few more of the characters:

Including two more Conan variants and the glorious Camel.  That said, I'm also at the stage of having to paint some of the worst sculpts in the set.  Such as the weirdly flat Bone Golem...

Next up; WW2 German Infantry:


These are mainly PSC Germans, along with a handful of the old Valiant Miniatures.  Not photographed are another ten man section I finished, making for a total of 40 infantry to go with the command and recon elements I'd done before.  Although the basic technique I've used for these is the shaded glaze method, the level of underlying detail was increased, with better camouflage and so on.

Having enough models to play a game now, my thoughts have turned to terrain, of which I have little presently suitable for a 20mm Normandy set up.  I quickly assembled a few buildings in the Normandy style, though somewhat simplified.  I experimented with the airbrush for some of the painting, and finished the rest in a traditional style.
Next up, a barn and ruin, and some Bocage.

Lastly for today, I did a little painting for my Girlfriend for Xmas.  She is a big Alfonse Mucha fan, with many prints of his art around her house.  I was able to get hold of a limited edition 75mm sculpt of one of the figures from his work, and painted it up as best I could for her.

Quite a different challenge, being a model with far more subtle details than your typical wargames miniature.  I was happy with most of the result though; and the good lady loved it!


Monday, January 06, 2020

A Present to Myself


Not much of a one for the festivities, though a lovely time was spent with my partner and her family.  The guy in Red didn't proffer much on the gaming front other than a handful of Magic: the Gathering cards, but his efforts were gratefully received nonetheless.

Xmas is an extended period free of work (the benefits of working for academics, without having academic work commitments), and this gave me time to pick up some goodies for myself instead.  One of these was a rare Games Workshop Purchase:

I very much doubt I'll be playing the game, though it seems to garner decent reviews; no, I really bought these as the models look fantastic, and as a painting project I'm looking forward to having a go at these.

More in due course I guess...


Thursday, January 02, 2020

Rio Mundo - December 1811

Myself, Gav and James gathered at Gav's home for our big Napoleonics game of the year, and a pre-Xmas get together.  Not knowing quite how much space we would have I assembled mid sized forces and came up with a simple river crossing scenario.  Gav, for once choosing to command the French, was tasked with forcing the Spanish brigade defending the Rio Mundo, before their British allies arrived.  Gav could only deploy to the west of the woodland on his flank, whilst my Spanish could only deploy behind the river.

Initial Deployment
Short of space, Gav left his Cavalry Brigade in reserve, but began the battle with Two large brigades of infantry advancing north on the river.

Meanwhile my Spaniards used the walled gardens of a ruined monastery to cover their defense of the main bridge, with their cavalry looking to cover the more distant wooden bridge, and potentially sally out from it to threaten the French flanks.
The French opened with an alarmingly swift, unified advance, bringing their consolidated Grenadier Battalion to the very edge of the river.

Fortunately the Spanish were able to hold their urges with a withering fire.  On the allies second turn James' British Brigades arrived in the east.  Six battalions in column of march appeared on the horizon.
The French moves on the wooden bridge now were conducted with urgency, Gav realising the opportunity to challenge my weak cavalry was limited.  Nevertheless his troops moved sluggishly and were caught on the bridge by charging Hussars.

At the same time the Grenadiers attempted to force the stone bridge over the Rio Mundo.

The French infantry on the wooden bridge were able to repel the cavalry, who raw and easily rattled, went on to flee the field despite little loss.  The Grenadiers however suffered heavily for their attempt and were sent, shaken, back to their lines.  By this stage, the French cavalry had arrived in force.

The British were also beginning to deploy, trying to form a line between the two areas of woodland to threaten the French flanks.  The Spanish were by this point under great pressure, with skirmishers having crossed the river west of the stone bridge (we agreed skirmish troops could find crossing points, but not formed units).  The Corsican Legers went on to outflank and destroy the lone Spanish gun covering the valley.

The French having crossed the eastern bridge, had also to be contained and so they rushed their token regular units (one infantry and one cavalry) to counterattack. 

Poor transmission of orders left French cavalry tangled in the woodland, and under sporadic fire from riflemen.  The British line began to apply enfilading fire to the French flanks too, putting their rash cavalry in danger.  Gav peeled off some more infantry to contain the problem and tried to reorganise his attack on the western crossing, as his Corsicans threatened the rear of the Spanish militias. 

The Spanish were able to throw back the French in the east despite their desperate attempt to form square.  By this stage the British were in a deep deployment and able to replace tired troops with fresh men.
By now the French were on a knife edge, mainly due to the bumbled eastern flank.  The cavalry brigade having charged on, was now a broken mess and there was only a moment for it to be saved (we allow only a single attempt to rally a unit if a brigade becomes broken, fail that final attempt and the formation cannot further be rescued from rout).

This failed and the cavalry broke into a general rout.  Soon to be followed by the infantry in the east.  The Spanish had held, thanks to the timely arrival of the British in force.  But it was a closer run matter than it may have appeared.

Another great game, wrapped up with Black Powder (I) in about 3 hours.  I was fortunate that my Spanish militia , who were classed as untried, proved reliable and stalwart; whilst my cavalry was flaky at best.  Gav's infantry were never able to press over the stone bridge, whilst his attempts to get over the wooden bridge became muddled.  They were able to hold out against the British for a while, but eventually the weight of their numbers told.

A nice way to wrap up 2019.  And with a new home for bigger games finally found - our previous venue having closed - hopefully 2020 can see rather more offerings.