Tuesday 14 October 2008

More 'Arab' Buildings.

I have read that as many of as a third of the villages in the Holy Land were deserted, ruined or derelict. This was, apparently, due to war, forced migration and general bad management. I liked the idea of having a village that was somewhat out of the ordinary, so I built one. The exposed fallen roof sections are made from broom bristle painted in a plaster mix. The wood beam roof supports are disposable barbeque skewers. The rubble is chopped up balsa, sand and grit. The broken doors add to the deserted feel.

The intact village now comprises three structures, a gate and wall sections, and a well and trough. During the Crusades, and even to day in the Middle East (Afghanistan spring to mind), most villages would be built as compounds for defence against bandits and marauding tribal elements. This makes them ideal war games terrain.

Monday 13 October 2008

Making 'Arab' Buildings

‘Arab’ buildings are probably the easiest buildings a war gamer can make. To show how easy, I will describe how I made the most recent addition to my growing town. It is probably hardest building to make; a mosque. You can judge the size of the mosque by the grid on the cutting mat. The squares are 1cm. The walls of the main mosque form a square, 11cm x 11cm. This makes the mosque much smaller than it would be in reality, but given war game ground scale, much bigger. It is a compromise; the important thing is that it looks right on the table, so all windows and doors must be figure scale.

Firstly, after deciding your measurements and drawing the basic wall elements on balsa wood sheet (4 - 5mm thick), cut out all of your bits using a sharp bladed craft knife. Remember, that unless you are going to miter all the walls (like a picture frame), and you want a square building like this one, you will need to take wall thickness into account by making two of the walls smaller than the other two by double the thickness of the walls. If you do this, measure windows from the centre of each wall so that everything looks balanced when it is put together.

I use a number 10 scalpel with 10A blades; because these are cheap: handles cost less than £5, and blades, sold foil packs of 5 blades, cost less than 20p each.

Next glue the walls together (I use thick PVA glue for this), adding balsa ‘right angle triangles’ on the inside for rigidity and ‘true 90 degree angles’, and pin. It is probably worth noting that I also use a cutting mat with a grid printed on it – just to check that everything is square.

Once dry glue on the roof. I decided that this roof would overlap the walls by 1.5mm on each side. Once on, I drew lines, diagonally, from one corner to its opposite corner (the reason will become apparent)

Next, glue on the dome, and then the parapet. This is where the diagonal lines come in handy. Measure the visible line to the edge of the dome at each corner; when they are all the same the dome is central. The dome is a 70mm polystyrene ball obtained from a craft shop.

The walls of this mosque will be plastered. To give it the well worn look some of the plaster will be made to look like it has fallen off to reveal the brick work beneath. Cut a line around an area then ‘chisel’ out the area with a scalpel. Using a pencil with the grain of the wood and a scalpel against the grain, make the brick work.

Next add the door. Being a ‘posh’ building I decided to add an ornamental stone arch behind it –all constructed out of balsa. The door itself was made out of thin balsa sheet scored with a pencil to make the planking effect. At this stage I also added some wide steps to the buildings entrance with a fountain and pool to one side (where the faithful can wash their feet).

Now I added a tower where the Mullah, mad or otherwise, could call his congregation to prayer.
This was constructed using the same methods as the building.

I crested my tower with a bottle top supported by square section balsa dowel (if I had had some I would have, in retrospect, used round dowel). To all intents and purposes, the construction phase is complete except for a crescent on the dome. This was fashioned from a shield, wire and a ball of miliput.

When the whole thing was dry I painted the inside black with ink. I glued the building onto a hardboard base, painted the door and brickwork with brown ink, and painted the outside walls, taking care around the brickwork, with a coating of filler. The filler should be a creamy constituency; I mix my filler with water and PVA glue.

After dry brushing the brickwork and door in lighter shades of brown, I painted the rest of the building with magnolia household emulsion paint with a bit of brown and black ink mixed in. The resultant shade is a mucky brown grey colour.

Next, the building was dry brushed with magnolia emulsion, and the crescent and water pool were painted with enamels. The base was finished in a similar way to my figures (see previous post under modeling). All done – One mosque!

Sunday 5 October 2008

The Battle of the Red Gate. Part 2.

The Chronicle of Kermit the Hermit (a.k.a. The Dirty Fakir) continues.

“Toghtekin and his guard, and the dead Count’s guard, did battle upon the summit of the hill until, exhausted and disheartened by the death of their Count, the knights gave way. But now it was Toghtekin who found himself in peril of his life; the Count’s foot soldiers, in the village and to Toghtekin’s left hand, sought vengeance on him; they marched from the village in which they had taken shelter, and from a stone’s throw let loose such a volley of quarrels that Toghtekin’s guard was weakened and forced to withdraw from the field, though Toghtekin himself rode into the valley where his other cavalry lay.

The King’s army was now in two halves and surrounded. In the rear, what remained of the Counts foot soldiery were hard pressed and constantly under hail of arrows. The King’s rear was desperately open to attack and only a body of knights stood in the way of the Saracen. Seeing these knights fighting valiantly against the odds, a certain knight called Peter D’Idiot grasped the True Cross from the Patriarch and charged into the flank of the Saracens, followed by the Patriarch and his personal guard. Peter D’Idiot, sword and Cross in hand, drove deeply into the midst of the ungodly hordes, but was unhorsed and slain and the Cross taken [Peter was rolling a d12+1 Vs d6 –Baffoon result 3, the Saracens rolled 6! Peter immediately admitted that he would not do this kind of thing with the True Cross again!].

The King now had but one hope, his now exhausted soldiers [now down to zero morale] must seize the doors of the Gate [objectives] and pray for nightfall. They tried with what might they had remaining, seizing the two hills on either hand of the village, but at the village itself they were thwarted. The Saracen cavalry was now all about them, and the King was locked in hand to hand combat with Klimuk’s guard. Klimuk, seeing the King at the head of his knight’s surged with his picked men towards him, striking him with many blows until his helmet was cleaved and his brains smashed out. Leaderless, the King’s army, so close to victory, gave up all hope and broke [the King’s battle had just failed their Army Morale check]. Scattered, they suffered terrible slaughter at the hands of the Turks, only the Count’s infantry, saved by easier pickings elsewhere managed to limp from the field.”

Thus the battle ended. It had been hard fought throughout. The Damascenes, who started the battle with 25 morale chips were down to just 5, and given that they had gained 6 from the Franks, were very close to zero themselves at one point. The Franks had started the battle with only 16. The whole thing, played by Peter and I, was a fantastic war game that will be remembered for some time to come. Peter’s email to me on the following day said it all: “Can’t wait for the next one.” Some times you set out on a war game project not knowing what the final outcome will be; I knew they would be pretty, and I had bought enough for the set ups to be impressive and the terrain had come out looking good early on; but I had no idea what the games would be like – TURNS OUT THEY ARE GREAT FUN!!!!

We are sure that all the rules now work very well. All I need to do now is actually type up the amendments and add the bits thought best left for later, such as army lists. This I hope to do over the next month or two.