Sunday, 8 February 2015

Painting a timber framed thatched house

Firstly, let me say that I don't think there is only one right way to do this. This is just the way I did this one. Certainly, I'm learning things all of the time and when I do the next one I plan on doing at least one thing differently - more anon.

First job: Seal the model. For this I used a good quality household emulsion paint. Household emulsion, these days at least, is basically acrylic paint you buy in bulk. If there is enough for half a jar after painting a room, I put it in a jam jar for painting terrain.
Next I put a layer of paint on the roof (cheap artists brown acrylic).

Then, using a reasonable quality, undiluted, heavy body artists acrylic (Daler-Rowney in a tube), and an old brush, I liberally daubed  the areas between the timber framing. This is one reason why it is best to seal the model first - it goes on easier.

In the past, I have used plaster mixed with water and PVA for this job; believe me, the acrylic is far easier to use as it comes 'ready mixed' and it sticks like sh*t;  heavy body acrylic will never flake off like paster does.
Next, the walls needed a base coat. 

To get the right shade, I used a mix of cheap brown artists acrylic and a 'sandy' coloured household emulsion. It looked a bit like straw so I also used it to dry brush the thatch.
To get a weathered look I washed the walls using a diluted burnt umber artists ink (diluted 4 water to 1 ink). 

The model looks a complete mess at this point. It also looks far too dark, but (IMHO) initial weathering needs to be bold.
Then I dry brushed the walls with the walls base colour (see above) and then dry brushed twice more, lightening the base colour with more white emulsion each time. The thatch also got some extra dry brushed highlighting.

As with painting figures, I think the trick is to use a little less highlighting with each application - to build a depth of colour. 

This picture shows the model with the first two shades of dry brushing - one still to add.
The building now needs the detail adding. For this I used Derwent Inktense blocks and a water brush. These are water solid blocks of ink that dry permanently - like acrylic does. 

The 'water brush' is the thing with the big clear plastic handle - this one is pictured with the brush cover (top) on. The handle is full of water. You give it a squeeze and water comes through the bristles. You then use the brush on the block and start painting. It is a fantastic way to do this detailed work.

I bought these for my dad for Christmas a couple of years ago, I bought them just before he told me he had given up painting! His loss, my gain - he got socks, or something.
To make finishing the model easier the thing I would do differently next time are the windows. Next time, during the construction stage I will paint the bluey glass colour on the wall section, paint the laser cut window frames, then stick the frames on. 

The outside edges of the windows will still need to be done at this stage, but the insides will be much 'cleaner'. It took over an hour to paint them the way I did.
I used a mixture of grit, sand and cut up broom bristle scatter for the yard. 

The yard will be used to put troops in so it needs to be hard wearing and functional.
After a base coat and dry brushing the yard in various earthy colours (artists acrylic and emulsion again) I put a little flock around the 'non-roadside' base edges.
 And, there we are....
 Job done....
 What next?....
A thatched barn, perhaps.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Building A Thatched, Timber-framed House

You can never have enough buildings. 

Of course that's rubbish; I'm sure you can, but I never have. I find building terrain quite relaxing (painting it is a different story) but somehow I always have too little time to to do it. 

I've been itching to add some new thatched buildings to my SYW collection for ages. I bought the windows and doors from War-bases at Fiasco last year - it's taken until now to get round to the first of three new buildings. 

This building is a simple two story house. Like all my buildings, it is under scale but big enough to look right. Here is how I went about it.

The basic construction is 2mm MDF. The building is wider at the top than at the bottom, so there are two gables ends and four side walls (two for the lower floor and two for the upper floor). Before sticking them all together I stuck on the doors, widows, chimney and the balsa-wood 'timber-framing'.

Except for some elastic bands and a pair of scissors, this picture shows all of the tools I used. Everything is made square with the set square. The MDF was cut with the Stanley knife and steel rule. I used white PVA glue (which I buy by the 4.5 litre bottle), UHU, and a small amount of superglue.
Construction is fairly straight forward. 'Squareness' is achieved using the set square - the most expensive tool, but absolutely essential.
An elastic band is used to hold everything together - it should not be to too tight. 
The upper side walls go in. I made the wide horizontal framing over long so that it could be cut to match the wide horizontal framing on the gables once dry.

Note that I didn't bother to 'floor' the side wall overhangs - you never see this.
After cutting the horizontal framing to match up with the gable ends, some final pieces of wide framing were added to the corners so that they appear to frame both gable and side.  

I like my building to have room for occupying troops, so I added a suitably sized walled garden. I actually got the measurements wrong on this and had to add a strip to extend the garden by 2cm - not a problem, but a pain, doh. 

The walls are resin - manufacturer unknown. I glued the walls down with UHU glue.
The roof is made of teddy bear fur on MDF. Wrapping over the edge gives the thatch the appearance of having some depth. 

I used UHU to do all of this. 

"Short" refers to one side being 2mm shorter (top to bottom) to account for the overlap of the longer piece at the ridge. 

The picture shows it after it was glued and combed (see below).

Teddy fur is usually made to lay flat in one direction, so you have to use a separate piece for each side of the roof so that the fur lays flat going top to bottom on each side. 

After the fur has been stuck onto the MDF roof pieces, the fur is coated, then combed through, with white PVA glue. 

The ridge is covered with an extra narrow strip of fur added after the rest is basically dry. Because you have to comb this in two directions it is best to have the fur laying flat from one end of the ridge to the other. 

Then the roof is attached.
The building is almost finished. 

A few bits of PVA soaked teddy fur without backing cloth are brushed into the small gaps around the chimney.
Just the top of the chimney to finish - CONSTRUCTION DONE!

Next post on this building will show how I'll finish it.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Take The High Ground - A Seven Years War Scenario

This scenario is a fictional major clash between Russian and Prussian forces set during the campaign season of 1760 when, historically, the Russians raided Berlin. If they had been more ambitious the Russians might have won the war for the Allies with a single bold stroke but they didn't, and the war in Europe continued for another three years.

Fictional Background

Following the disastrous encounters of 1759 Prussia is on the back foot and the strategic initiative has passed to the Russians. The Russians have decided to end the war by capturing Berlin, advancing on it from the south east. Progress has been steady and the Prussians have fallen back before the Russian's without risking an engagement. 

Now, the only natural barrier between the Russians and their prize is the River Spree. The Russians have decided to force a crossing at Rasmandorf where the crossing points are dominated by the heights on the east bank. The Prussians, having traded ground for time to reinforce themselves, have taken up positions on the heights; it is here the Prussians will make their stand. 

If the Russians can take the heights any attempted defence of the far bank will be rendered futile, they will be able to cross without further resistance, and Berlin, along with the House of Hohenzollern, will fall.

The Fictional Battlefield

All terrain, except isolated trees (added for aesthetic reasons), is representative terrain.
  • The stream and boggy ground are type III terrain.
  • Built up areas are type III 'town sections'. The Church is a two piece feature split lengthwise (one 'town section' on each side).
  • The hills have type II slopes with level tops.
  • Woods on level ground are type II. Wooded slopes are type III.
  • Hedges are type II. Enclosed fields are type II (the 12 feet of hedges, as well as a dozen 6" tall trees, are new Christmas additions to the terrain collection - they are by Andy Worsley of The Last Valley, though I did a little extra work on the hedges to make them fit in).
The deployment zone for each player is marked on the map with a red line. On the table, the zones can be seen marked out with lengths of fine chain (I still think that fine chain is a very good idea for this kind of thing - it always lays flat and bends exactly where you want it to because of the links; it doesn't move once placed because of its weight; it is easily removed; but, you do need a wall hook to hang it from when it's not in use, if 'heaped' it easily tangles; it is cheap - I think I paid around £1.20 a meter on ebay). 

Each player will choose an order of battle using a basic force plus one 'package' chosen from his list. Deployments will be made secretly on the map after the 'Army Characterisation Deck' draw (6 cards for each player) and prior to table deployment. 

Both players may choose to deploy some of their force as a single off-table reserve. If this option is taken, the Russian baseline entry point must be marked on the map, Prussian reinforcements must arrive through the town (via Rasmandorf's off table bridges). Their activation and imminent entry point may be announced when the player's Major Morale card is turned. Thereafter, they move onto the table in march column on any appropriate move card. 

Note: The scale on the map is in 6 cm increments and a unit in line has a frontage of 18 cm.

Note: Any routing Prussian troops will seek to escape via the bridges behind Rasmandorf or, if cut off from them, towards one of the table ends.

Note: The full range of Stratagem card definitions will be active for this scenario. If the Prussians draw a reinforcements right / left stratagem it will be assumed that they are arriving via a secretly constructed pontoon bridge in that sector.

Map note: The River Spree is off table behind the Prussian deployment area (top of map) - the on table watercourse is just a stream.

Victory Conditions

The victory conditions are simple enough and they are the same for both players. 

  • Marginal Victory: Be in sole possession of one hill and the road exit in the Russian deployment zone at the end of turn six (nightfall). 
  • Decisive Victory: Be in sole possession of both hills at the end of turn six (nightfall). 
  • Total Victory: Be in sole possession of both hills and the road exit in the Russian deployment zone at the end of turn six (nightfall).

Prussian Order of Battle

Basic Prussian Force
Basic Force
  • 1 Regiment of Cuirassier.
  • 1 Regiment of Dragoons.
  • 1 Regiment of Hussars.
  • 2 units (four battalions) of Combined Grenadiers.
  • 5 Regiments of  Musketeers.
  • 2 batteries of Artillery.
Package A
  • 1 Regiment of Dragoons
  • 1 unit (two battalions) of Combined Grenadiers
  • 2 Regiments of Fusiliers
  • 1 Regiment of Garrison Infantry
  • 1 Battery of Artillery.
Package B
  • 1 Regiment of Dragoons
  • 2 Regiments of Hussars
  • 1 Regiment of Fusiliers
  • 2 Batteries of Heavy Artillery (in redoubts)
Package C
  • 1 Regiment of Cuirassier
  • 1 Regiment of Hussars
  • 2 Regiments of Musketeers
  • 1 Regiment of Fusiliers
  • 1 Battery of Artillery
Russian Order of Battle

Basic Russian Force
Basic Force
  • 2 Regiments of Cuirassier
  • 1 Regiment of Horse Grenadiers
  • 2 Regiments of Hussars
  • 3 Regiments of Grenadiers
  • 6 Regiments of Musketeers
  • 2 Batteries of Artillery
Package A
  • 1 Regiment of Horse Grenadiers
  • 2 Regiment of Cossacks
  • 1 Regiment of Grenadiers
  • 4 Regiments of Musketeers
  • 1 Battery of Artillery
Package B
  • 1 Regiments of Cuirassier
  • 2 Regiment of Dragoons
  • 1 Regiment of Grenadiers
  • 2 Regiments of Musketeers
  • 2 Batteries of Heavy Artillery
Package C
  • 4 Regiments of Cossacks
  • 2 units (four battalions) of Combined Grenadiers
  • 4 Regiments of Musketeers
I think this scenario will be fought in two to three weeks time. The last two gaming nights have been cancelled due to the weather; I'm hoping we can get Graham's game in over the next week or two, then get this one going.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Latest additions - newly recruited Austrians

Having finished painting the upgrades to all of the existing Austrian units I've started to add some completely new units. 

I am starting with four German infantry regiments: The first pair will be 21 Lacy and 41 Bayreuth; the second pair are 23 Baden-Baden and 29 Loudon. I have chosen to do these two pairs of units because each pair wears an almost identical uniform, allowing me to paint them in 'double batches' of 48 figures without much thought.

The first pair of units have now (less basing) been done.

 22 Lacy (left) and 41 Bayreuth (right). Only the pompoms differentiate the units.

These are Front Rank figures in the marching with shouldered musket pose. 

I know this pose is not to every one's taste, the marching with musket upright pose is more popular and somehow looks more SYW, but I love this pose because it is the easiest / quickest pose to paint.

Flags are over painted versions of the Greenwood and Ball design.
From the direction you usually see your Austrians (before they turn and run), I think the pose looks quite purposeful.

One thing I have done, is to replace the cast on officer's partizan pole with a wire one. I'm fed up of having straighten them out and touch up flaked paint; they stand too proud of the unit and are forever getting caught on player's sleeves. 

Lastly I thought I'd show the difference between old and new painting styles. The unit on the left, 14 Salm, was painted ten to fifteen years ago (?). They style hasn't changed that much over time but there are differences. 

Next up, regiments 23 and 29 in with dark blue facings. They are in the 'marching with musket upright' pose. They are black under-coated and ready to go.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

As one pile disappears, another lifts its shiny head

So, with the Russians finished and the last four units of Prussian infantry and two units of Prussian cavalry on hold, I've been working on getting my Austrians back into the fight. 

At the moment this is largely a case of upgrading my 16 man infantry units to 24 man units and re-basing the army on 45mm wide bases to match the Prussians and Russians. It's an awful job; trying to match painting I did fifteen (?) years ago is quite difficult; painting figures and not having 'new' units to show for the effort is a bit dispiriting. On the up side, I only have two units of Hungarian infantry to go.

When the Hungarians are done, there will be a small 'game-able' army all ready to go. It comprises:

5 regiments of cuirassier
3 regiments of dragoons
1 regiments of hussars

8 regiments of German infantry
2 regiments of Hungarian infantry
1 unit of combined German grenadiers
3 battalions of Grenzers

3 batteries of guns

9 command stands

Then I can start increasing the size of the army by adding a few new units. Here are the plans for that expansion - the number in brackets is the number of units already in the shiny pile. I expect to have this lot done by the end of the year.

3 regiments of cuirassier (1)
2 regiments of dragoons (1)
2 units of combined elite companies (1)
4 regiments of hussars (1)

8 regiments of German infantry (6)
1 regiment of Hungarians (1)
2 unit of combined grenadiers (1)
3 battalions of Grenzers (3)

3 batteries of guns (1)

This will give a nicely balanced army of 54 units comprising: 28 units of infantry, 20 units of cavalry and 6 batteries of guns that will able to take the field in war game campaigns with the Prussians (50 units) and Russians (54 units).  Except for a 'universal' pontoon train and some 'universal' limbers that I plan to add for completeness, this is where my Seven Years War project will end for the foreseeable future.

Then, I can start my Peninsular War collection. 

Friday, 16 January 2015

An army finished - Russian SYW - Roll call!

Today I put my brush down on my Seven Year War Russian army. Finishing an army is a significant moment for any war gamer. The chance to say "finished" is never one to be sniffed at. Every usable Russian in my lead pile has now been painted. Every planned unit has been done.

Will there be more units to come? Maybe but, not in the immediate future. I may, in years to come, add a unit of field guns, two or three units of line infantry, a unit of dismounted dragoons, and possibly a unit or two of jagers, but not for now; for now I have enough; my enough is, thankfully, nowed.

What did I need to paint to finish the army? Well, actually not that much but, after the Zorndorf project, I felt uninspired to finish the last three units of cavalry and command stands. The units I have added are force balancing additions for campaigns and the like.

What made me paint them now?  I looked at the battles I could do and found Paltzig 1759. I could just about do it if I added a couple of units of cavalry - which I had in the lead pile - so I waded into them. With just 11 more figures needed, after that, to remove the pile completely, the temptation was too much. I had to take them off the to do list altogether.

So now, less three units and three commands to base (a mere trifle), I have decided to "Roll Call!"

Dragoons and Horse Grenadiers: Two regiments of each.
Hussars: There are four regiments of hussars but one is at double strength - Horvat - this latter unit wore the same uniform as two other regiments, so it's a useful colour scheme.
Cuirassier: Four units of cuirassier.
 Three batteries of howitzers.
Five units of the Observation Corp. The four regiments that took part in the SYW plus their combined grenadier regiment (?).
 The line infantry....
..that amount to 15 units - perhaps too few?
Combined grenadiers from the infantry: There are three units of these.
Cossacks: I have painted 64 of these buggers. You absoletely need them for any Russian army, but you can't find any (war game) military reasons to include them. We are not talking 1812 here - these cavalry were generally useless, even in campaign terms.
Field guns: Three batteries, of everything, these might be the first component of the army that might need reinforcement, but only by one battery.

There is, of course, another thing I've been painting. It's not complete, but my next post will detail my plans and show where I'm at...........

EDIT: Whoops, forgot to mention these guys. Four Grenadier Regiments.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Solo Zorndorf - part 5

This report will combine the action from turn 5 until midway through turn 6, at which time the battle was effectively ended. Turn five and six were unusual in the number of high initiative swings they produced - the double six domino appeared no less than four times, and there were several other doubles too. 

On the Russian left Demiku's cavalry and Schorlemer's cavalry came to grips all along their lines.
On their right the pressure was building as Seydlitz brought his cavalry to an undefended length of the Galgen-Grund but, as it was, the Russians had had enough.

They broke and fled towards the Hof-Bruch.
Things were not going well for the Russians. The Observation Corps was beginning to feel the sting of Prussian musketry.
But, at the Galgen-Grund things were going from bad to worse as their line collapsed.
Seydlitz was across the Galgen-Grund and, cutting off the Russian retreat as they fled helter-skelter for the safety of the wetlands of the Hof-Bruch, his troopers captured them in their thousands.
What Russians remained to the left of the Observation Corps were pressed back onto the boggy ground. The elated Prussians began their advance to finish them off.
Only the Observation Corps remained largely intact.
The cavalry action on the right was now beginning, and the Prussians were getting the best of it here too.

This ended turn 5.
The last of the Russians fleeing to cross Hof-Bruch in the direction of Quartschen were captured by Sydlitz's troopers.
Then, by chance, things started to turn in the Russians favour on their left. Perhaps, just perhaps......
In the centre the last of Saltykov's and Galitzyn's troops were being shot to pieces.
In a last counter attack, born of desperatation, a couple of determined battalions of combined grenadiers take advantage of a lull in the musketry. 
First one regiment of Prussians took to their heels...
...then another. 

Was this last gasp of the Russian infantry enough to swing the battle. 

The Prussians are down to a handful of morale chips. The Russians still have some to spare.
Back on the Russian right they are throwing themselves into the fight with some elan. Schorlemer's cavalry begin to break.

The Russians are invariably rolling dice of less value than the Prussians but are winning hands down on almost every roll.
Even the Cossacks are encouraged. 

We are using a difficulty check before allowing Cossacks to close - this does not apply to Heroic Cossacks!

At first they are thrown back but,.....
..........they attack from every direction and overwhelm their adversaries.
It looks like it is too late. Without warning a fresh attack by Dohna's infantry upon the Russian left causes the Observation Corps to disintegrate.
The Russians draw double six and the Prussians draw a nine. The Russians have 21 initiative points. Low and behold, first card up is Command Indecision and they lose the lot! It never rains when it pours.
The Prussians now spend their six initiative points and win the first sixteen of the next initiative with a high double of their own. By the time it is spent, their are no Russian infantry still in the field. They only have a couple of regular cavalry units (the others having galloped off in pursuit), a few regiments of unreliable Cossacks, and two morale chips left. The Prussians have troops galore and one morale chip.

The Russians throw in the towel and order a general retreat.

The last two turns saw the Russians finally run out of luck. They got their cards at the wrong time, their firing was ineffective due to poor dice rolling, and the Prussians got much more initiative. Only in their last gasps did their luck begin to change but it was far too little, too late.

This was another solo success, as far as I'm concerned, The battle took seven or eight hours to play out, and playing it a turn at a time was definitely the way to do it. It also made the AARs easier to write as things were fresher in my mind. I hope you have enjoyed reading the AARs.