Tuesday, 26 March 2013

There's a long, long road a winding . . . (sorry!)


Following on from my last post about cheap trees and the OS approach to wargaming (that's Old School, not Ordnance Survey), last weekend I knocked out some roads for my 25/28mm armies. Simple, but laborious and not to be carried out in the vicinity of cats.



My mate Lee Abbott (see the 'Daywalker' blog, left, for interesting goodies) and I were discussing road construction (model, not McAlpine) and he pointed me in the direction of the Pound Shop. They sell packs of floor tiles for a pound each (really?), four to a pack, each a foot square. “Not round here, I bet,” thinks I. Now for funny bit number one: my wife called in to one such emporium the day after and reported the did sell said tiles. My response? “How much are they?” She just stared at me in disbelief.



My excuse is that I've not been feeling all that well lately, but last Saturday I braved the arctic winds (we never get snow round here) and trotted off to the 'mall' (ugh!) and copped for three packs – at three road sections to the tile, that's twelve feet or road per pack, so I envisaged twenty four feet of road sections, plus odds'n sods: curves, junctions and the like. This should be ample as I've had a shufty at plenty of battle maps in my time and AWI/ACW engagements aren't likely to rival the Western European road network. Roads are even relatively modestly represented on Napoleonic maps, so good oh.



O.K., the important bit: even though I had to buy a tub of B&Q emulsion – 'Hana' – to do the base coat for the ground work, the whole scheme came in at about £14, allowing for the virtually free sand and the PVA glue. Straightforward job: cut to size, sand on the adhesive side of the tiles, then base coat, highlight and flock. Anyone should be capable of that. I had a blast making them because it brought back memories of the good old days (see previous post).



The roads are 4” wide overall, which is made up of a 3” road with grass verges and, although I was a little concerned they might be too wide, they look good with units on them. I'm thinking of revisiting this project because, as you've probably noticed, other than a few curves the roads are decidedly 'Roman'. I reckon another box of tiles and plenty of curves and such ought to do the trick. I only had one 'casualty' (funny bit number two – to me anyway) which was a 6” section of tile the bloody cat sat on. Who wants a cat hair road? The cat's got a sore backside though, so all was not wasted.



So, there you go. Some shockingly bad photos follow, but please don't tell me you need detailed photographs of a road! Actually, after I'd finished them I realised that they look unnervingly like the footpaths on the Pennine Way, with little patches of grass growing between outstanding rocks. Sign of a miss spent youth, I suppose.

The total job. By the way, the 'cat' to the left of the table isn't the one in question: it's a book from Little H's growing library!


This is about as close as you get to the actual colour scheme. The other photographs are even worse.





Wednesday, 20 March 2013

While England were getting thrashed by Wales . . . .


. . . I was so browned off (embarrassed actually) I decided I might as well get on with my forestry project. I hadn't intended to start on 25/28mm 'trees' until I'd got my 15mm stuff out of the way, but I was excited (takes surprisingly little these days) by an impulse purchase I'd made and I wanted to see how it turned out.



Last Thursday I'd been on an expedition to the Trafford Centre with Young Henry to get him yet more books. There are only so many times you can read 'My Granny is a Pirate' and the bloody 'Gruffalo' and I was desperate. While we were there we nipped in to the Modelzone shop because little'un thinks it's some kind of wonderland – bringing him up right, see? While I was chasing him round the place I espied a selection of tree sets/bags by Gaugemaster: 25 trees for just under 20 quid, so I snapped up a bag – I let Little H pick which one to get.



So, cheap trees into cheap woods. The bases cost nothing as they're made from the free CD's I've accumulated over the years from the covers of various mags like The Word, Uncut and such. Cover the hole in the middle by glueing a small square of thin card (Cornflake box etc.) over it (I use PVA) then hot glue the trees to these in whatever number/configuration you like. Next comes a coat of thinned PVA, then a tsunami of sharp sand (cost very little: the sand is practically free at about thirty bob a bag. Once that's dry, paint it up and then apply the grass. The only lengthy part of the process is drying time and this will depend on the weather, room temperature or whatever. I knocked this lot out in a couple of hours and it would probably be a little less in summer. I think the main delay was caused by my tears at the England match adding to the general humidity.



Ten tree bases for, say twenty or twenty one quid isn't bad. The tree sizes range from 9cm to 15cm and there is a variety of bags to choose from. They're not the best trees in the world, but they're very far from the worst and certainly fine for wargaming. You can buy them on-line from either Modelzone (http://www.modelzone.co.uk/) or direct from Gaugemaster (http://www.gaugemaster.com/), prices are the same and it's easy to hit free postage.







This method of building tree bases has its limitations in that troop movement is pretty limited and it doesn't lend itself to distinct borders to woods for gaming purposes, but so what? I intend to use them for 25/28's and they look fine for my purposes. They look excellent for 15mm, but I've got oodles of those cheap Chinese trees off eBay for that, though they can be used together. By the way, the 15mm trees will be mounted in similar groups on hexagonal MDF bases (Tony Barr at East Riding Miniatures) which look a but twee, but will be spot on for Napoleonic (pedantic) and ACW (F&F) encounters. The only other limitation I can see is storage (same for any scenic stuff), but I've got round this by liberating some fruit boxes from Costco (the tough corrugated cardboard ones they pack fruit and veg in).



Having proven that I'm a cheapskate, I think I'll refer back to a theme on a couple of other blogs about what Old School wargaming is actually about. I’m not going to reboil all the cabbages from across the interweb, but my potted version is that it isn't about hoards of gloss painted, individually based figures marching across a radioactive green board, but rather a frame of mind.


Journey with me now back to 1967 when three schoolboys discovered a book called ‘Wargames’ by somebody called Donald Featherstone. The rules it contained were meticulously copied into exercise books nicked from whichever subject the teacher was easiest to con and there began my wargaming odyssey. Nothing came prepackaged and nothing was easily accessible. The model railway enthusiast became our saviour on many occasions and Airfix achieved almost divine status. When we discovered lead figures they became the only item on Christmas and birthday lists and Saturday jobs (when we were old enough) or paper rounds funded the hobby. 
 

You’ll have cottoned on by now that this was well before the advent of Games Workshop and even before the rise of Peter Gilder, but it was fun and required hours of research to source useful history books, let alone uniform information and rules. The first set of rules I bought which were anything like commercially produced (anyone remember a Gestetner or a Bandagraph?) were a set of AWI rules by Tony Bath available through Wargamer’s Newsletter. However, I’m not stuck in the past and I freely admit that we owe much of the advance of the hobby to fantasy gamers, but today it’s all available with minimal effort, just plenty of cash. In his 'Independent Wargames Group' (http://independentwargamesgroup.blogspot.co.uk) Rob asks “Who can afford painted buildings by The Grand Manner?' Well er . . . I can, but if you want something badly enough you'll afford it. However, from my point of view, I wouldn't buy one because I'd rather make my own. Haven't got any surviving examples to hand, but I could knock them out – I know how to do it because I had to learn the hard way and I've done it in the past. This is the main point, I think. I know stuff is readily available these days and much of it is useful to any type of wargamer, but I'd rather do things myself, even if it's to verify what's published. Same with wargaming hardware. I'd rather make my own scenery (unless there's an unbelievable bargain to be had) and paint my own leads. To me it's all part of the hobby and I shake my head when I read things like “I've just bought some "X” figures and want some information on their uniforms”. 
 

I suppose I'm unashamedly Old School and, to my surprise, I'm a member of quite a large species. Steve the Wargamer recently had a blog entry discussing Old School (http://steve-the-wargamer.blogspot.co.uk/search?updated-max=2013-02-28T08:35:00Z&max-results=5) and it's worth a read as it sets the mind ticking (read the comments too). I wasn't happy that there wasn't a ready description for an Old School wargamer, so I had a scout around for a pithy definition and found an interesting one in the 'Urban Dictionary' which goes some of the way to wards it:

"A positive appellation referring to when things weren't flashy but empty of substance, were done by hard work, didn't pander to the lowest common denominator, and required real skill. Labour-saving devices, shortcuts that reduce quality and quitting before the task is done are not characteristics of "old school."


Games Workshop, Warlord Games et al. take note.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Long see no time!



Well, no excuses this time. I've just been doing things (including painting leads), but never got round to posting on the blog. I'm reasonably certain nobody has lost any sleep over that, but I thought I ought to make the effort while I've got a bit of time.


One of the side effects of having too many projects on the go or lying fallow (abandoned) is the accumulation of peripheral stuff intended to support the lead (as in base metal) element. Bases are a curse, but I'm pretty standardised on those so there's little waste, if any, but I always accumulate flags. This is a hang up which harks back to the years when information on such things was scanty and Knotel was just a rumour. As this arcane knowledge began to become more freely available, flags were hand drawn on various types of paper and, later, cleaned up toothpaste and tomato puree tubes, but what a pain! A milestone in my wargaming journey (cos everything's a journey these days) was the availability of printed flags, originally the print your own variety from Warflag and then the real deal from a variety of people. Now, there's the rub. I'm pretty catholic in my approach to flags, but I've never used those by the Flag Dude because, even though they're popular, they still look like crinkled crisp packets to me, so I've always opted for the sheets rather than the finished product.


I'm not going to go into a 'how I do my flags' thing because anyone can glue a paper flag to a piece of wire, but I think I ought to give you a glimpse of some of the stuff currently available. It's certainly not an exhaustive list, but it's a reasonable cross section of what's out there. I've tried to keep the comments pretty basic and let the photographs speak for themselves. One thing I have borne in mind though is the view of a friend of mine in the States. I always tended not to be too critical of peoples' efforts because they'd put hard work and effort into their products and it seemed unfair to hammer them. Conversely, Jim's approach is based on the principle that these are also the people who want to relieve you of your readies and nobody's in the charity business. Fair enough, but style and aesthetics also play an important part and one man's meat etc . . . .


One piece of advice is to learn about your flags. Uniform information can be confusing enough and even these days not all of it is readily available. However, flag information is sometimes almost non existent and it may be the case that you have to take the manufacturer's description on trust. However, it does pay to read up as much as you can about the relevant flags to give you some flexibility in ordering and also to help you make a choice as to which units you want to build. For example, many of the French units which fought in the War of the Spanish Succession carried the same pattern colours until the French Revolution so, although a particular flag may not be listed under the War of the Spanish Succession, it might well be listed under the Seven Years' War or even the America War of Independence.


So, I've listed the companies in the order they came up as I leafed through the flag sheets I had. The comments are generally favourable, but one outfit does take a bit of a nose dive.



Adolfo Ramos


Style: modern 'textured' look.


Size: take these as the standard for 28mm figures.


Quality: Very clean finish with strong colours and excellent detail.


Service: Very good – they have to come from Spain! (Update: latest order was placed in the evening of Saturday 9th March and received this morning, Thursday 14th March. If only I could paint the figures that quickly!)


Choice: fairly small, but obviously growing.






Maverick Models


Style: textured or plain. Personally not over keen on the textured , but the plain flags are excellent.


Size: come in a variety of sizes from 6mm upwards, but they can be resized upon request. I've had all my 15mm flags resized for a better match with my 18mm AB Napoleonics.


Quality: crisp and clear prints. I order the plain style to allow me to paint in the shading and blend in with the figures with a matching style. Available on good quality paper or fabric.


Service: very good and with good communications. Aside from the resizing, they will also produce flags based on your own research.


Choice: huge! Also produces a range of of transfers/decals of Napoleonic uniform details.






Note: the Austrian flag is from the 15mm range!




Flags of War


Style: clean, textured style.


Size: largish 28mm.


Quality: good,clear prints on quality paper.


Service: very good and with good communications.


Choice: fair at present with a useful range or periods and broad cover. Also produces a range of of transfers/decals of Medieval, Napoleonic and AWI uniform details.








GMB



Style: clean, textured style.


Size: largish 28mm.


Quality: good,clear prints on quality paper.


Service: very good and with good communications.


Choice: good, although smaller choice in 15mm ranges. However, they also produce themed collections such as particular ACW and Napoleonic brigades/divisions








Body's Banners (Redoubt)


Style: textured


Size: smallish 25mm


Quality: generally poor. No reference marks for cutting (or straight edges). Not very well drafted. Some poorly printed.


Service: poor – delivery takes and age. Website does advise that delivery can take up to a month and they seem to stick to this. The flags I ordered took over three weeks to arrive.


Choice: probably average. Generally support the Redoubt figure ranges, but do contain some unusual/useful units not originally available from the other companies.