Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Mountain terrain for wargames

My "mountain" is just about complete. 28mm and 20mm figures for scale.

 Just wanted to do a quick update and post some photos of the mountain I have been working off and on over the past few months. I hope to do a small tutorial once my real life slows down a bit. I originally began building the terrain piece for my French and Indian War project which I am doing in 28mm. I originally was going to add trees native to the northeast United States and Canada, but have decided that I will also be able to use this for some of my other projects such as my 28mm Central America moderns and also my 20mm moderns by using some different trees and foliage. I think it turned out pretty well.

I'll give you a brief overview of how I did it. The original idea came as I was helping my cousin cut up his old hot tub. Inside the tub was this yellow foam insulation that we took out in large pieces. I took those and stored them and after cleaning them up I cut and sanded the bottoms so they would lay flat leaving the rough, bumpy top surface. I did sand down a few sections to give me some flat areas and also cut a few spots for layering my "rocks". I primed the entire piece with some green spray paint and once dry started to glue my rock pieces in place using a hot glue gun. The rocks by the way are just pieces of rough cut pine bark mulch that I bought in a 40lb. bag at Home Depot. I sorted pieces by shape and allowed them to dry out before gluing them in place. I then started layering the bark pieces on top of each other to form my basic bolder structure. Once the piece was all glued, I started dry brushing a variety of grays, yellows, browns, etc. When I had the base coat of colors down, I completely soaked the piece in a pva and water 50/50 mix to harden the pieces and give it a bit of protection. I then started layering on dirt (dried coffee grounds from my pot), dried leaves (black tea and mulling spice and dried oregano) and finally added some moss to the rocks using the basic Woodland Scenics flock. I again coated the piece really well with the pva & water mix via a spray bottle. Finally I added some shading using some really, really watered down acrylic paint that I splashed on and allowed to run as it would naturally. I know I am missing a few odd bits of information, but I'll try to give an update in the near future.

If you don't know about this group yet, let me tell you about Miniature Modeling Mayhem. It is a fantastic group of guys from around the world who share ideas and interests in wargames and terrain building. We meet just about every night (if you want) via online video chats to share ideas, paint and talk history and other topics. I encourage you to check us out on Facebook and Google+.

Until next time. Carry on men.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Latest projects- simple trees; an orchards and a crazy bus

So just a few quick bits I have been working on recently including quick and cheap trees, and apple orchard and a bus for my central america project.
My first set of trees with a 28mm figure for scale.

I recently shared on Miniature Modeling Mayhem some of the trees I have been working on. I am not an expert on terrain, modeling or anything else really, but I thought I would give making some trees a shot. If I had the funds, I would love to just go out and buy some really good looking one. But since I would rather spend my funds on figures and the periods I have chosen to game require trees, lots and lots of trees, I had to learn to make something that was halfway real looking and could be done inexpensively yet still looked good enough for the table.

I started out by searching in the craft shops for suitable dried or fake foliage that looked like trees. That was harder than it sounds until I found a package of something just called Naturals at a Michael's Craft Store. I have no idea what plant these come from, but they work great. I won't write out every little step here, to make it easier you can just watch the video I posted. Hope this helps you.
Here are my trees after I used sanded tile grout to make the trunks and ground.
 Here is the video on how I made them:

Apple Orchard:
I have also been busy making an apple orchard. I want to be able to use this for a variety of periods and scales so it is about halfway between 20mm-28mm.

Latin American buses:
If you are reading this, then you most likely know I am in the middle of creating a fictitious campaign based on a Central American drug cartel and their battle with both government and rebel forces. If you have ever traveled anywhere in Latin America you will know they love colorful buses. Preferably of the old yellow variety painted in crazy colors.
I recently found this gem in a toy shop and wish they had a few more. It might be a bit under scale for my 28mm central america stuff, closer for the 20mm stuff I do, but I think it will do the trick on the table. I can't wait to start painting it.
The Tonka school bus with a 28mm figure for scale.
Here are a few more pics I plan on using for reference and to kick my imagination.

Until next time. Carry on men.

French and Indian War - Fort Halifax

Somewhere in Maine there is a Top Secret training facility where the Supreme Commander of all My Men and I are sending the first of the Teenage Spies for in-depth training in Conservation Law. This training will consume the next four years of the tough, no-nonsense raven-haired lass. This is the spy who at times I have been able to convert as a double-agent. I have not been able to crack the spy's devotion to General ze Wife completely though. The General has tasked me with the very important mission of transporting the eldest spy, all the spies really and the General in a motorcade to this facility located deep in the woods. Hum, I believe this training is going to impact the military budget even further. If I'm lucky, maybe the Teenage Spy will get me a t-shirt or something. We shall see.

This quick trip is so the Teenage Spy can meet others like her. Some sort of spy orientation, a mini Teenage Spy convention if you will. I think I'll have to be very careful with my own secret plan. What plan you ask? Could this involve wargames in anyway? Haha, of course it does. This is why I have to use extreme caution so none of it get's back to the General. I had to implement my plan like it just serendipitously happened. This was accomplished with a small bribe to the youngest of the Teenage Spies. Maybe I should apply to spy school myself.

The location of my secret recon mission is not far...not days, not hours, but within minutes, as in 30 minutes, which is a very close distance if you have ever driven in the state of Maine. In this time frame there happen to be the remains of not one, but two...two, French and Indian War forts.  The locations are within striking distance of the hotel I am using for my temporary barracks and not even far from the advanced training facility full of Teenage Spies. I only have time to get to one of them this trip though so have chosen the closest, Fort Halifax.

Fort Halifax sits in a strategic location at the intersection of the Kennebeck and Sebasticook Rivers and was an important communication and trade route. I would encourage you to listen to this interview from Colby College professor Daniel Tortora who wrote the book 'Fort Halifax, Winslow's Historic Outpost'. The interview is fantastic and loaded with historical information about the fort. He can do a much better job explaining it than I ever could. You can listen to the interview here.

Fort Halifax, located in Winslow, Maine, is the oldest Block House in the United States.It began as a French and Indian War garrison and trading post. The fort hosted many historical figures such as Benedict Arnold, Aaron Burr, Paul Revere and Chief Joseph Orono. Only a single block house remains on the southeastern most part of the fort closets to the Sebasticook River. My goal was to try and get there and walk the grounds to get a sense of the scale of the fort and also to take a few photos for my own research. The original fort included two main blockhouses, a barracks, a main building as well as two additional block houses overlooking the area from atop a nearby hill.
A sketch drawn by one of the original builders of the fort as it appeared in 1755.
Major General John Winslow arrived at the site after a five day journey from Fort Western to establish the fort with a force of 600 on July 25, 1754. Winslow described the activities that followed his arrival:
...On the next day, laid out the ground, began to clear it, seated our guns and mortars, hoisted the Kings colors with the beat of drum and sound of trumpet and discharge of our whole artillery and small arms, drank to his Majesty and called this place Fort this place we continued employing our people... in cutting timber and pickets,...sawing boards and plank, building storehouses, getting clapboards and shingles, procuring stones out of the river, making bricks, burning coals, etc. and by the seventh of August got in a good posture of defense.
It is now part of a public park in the town of Winslow, Maine.
Again, I encourage you to listen to the interview above or purchase the book to get a more in-depth look into this remarkable place. Here are some photos I took of the site this past weekend. Visiting sites like this is a great way to connect to the history of the period you plan on modeling or gaming.
The west side of the block house.

The west and south side of the block house with the Sebasticook River beyond.

The youngest Teenage Spy actually enjoyed the adventure of locating and visiting the fort.

The upper door and gun ports of the block house.

The spy is about 5'3" tall in case you needed some scale reference.

Where the rivers meet in the southwestern most part of the fort complex.

Looking back toward the east of the fort area from the rivers.

A rock outcropping. I put this here so you have an idea on color. I make most of my rocks like this out of pine bark.
Until next time. carry on men.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

AAR 10Apr16: Raid on Diego Landymore

The weather finally broke after we were threatened with an another April snow storm but it turned out to be a wonderful spring day, still a bit on the cool side. Not cold enough for General ze Wife to want some help clearing the raised garden beds on the base. Knowing full well that I had a bunch of terrain ready for a go, I jumped at the chance to help the General early so I could get to the barn and get a game in today. I was solo today and although not all the terrain pieces are 100% ready, I wanted to use them so I could see where I needed to make adjustments and improvements once they were on the table.

Having most of my Central American 28mm forces completed, minus basing, I decided I would try a solo game using the Danger Close rules. Danger Close is from Empress Miniatures and used to be called Some Corner of a Foreign Field. I really like the way the rules play. They are simple and fast and although I know I made a few mistakes with them today my goal was really to use the terrain and not get a perfect game in. Like I said earlier, I really wanted to set the pieces out and see what I needed to do to make them better/more playable. My figures need a bit more Matte varnish and I realized that a few of the fields I hadn't finished off with a top coat of "dirt".

My scenario involved a fictitious Central American country's commando forces attempting to storm the compound of a drug lord who commands his own paramilitary force.

The Briefing:
The drug lord is the notorious Diego "arbol" Landymore who controls one of world's largest cartels. Arbol is often seen in the company of his trusted associate, a Dutchman only known as PowerG. It is rumored the Dutchman controls the cartel's European routes. Arbol, so named due to his affinity for trees, is rumored to have made acquaintance with a woman known to run an international swingers club. She may or may not be in the compound. Arbol and his associates are to be wanted dead or alive. The compound is located in a fertile area surrounded by small farms and fields of sugarcane. His compound named Dinero Asesinato sits at the north end of a long dirt road running through the vast sugar plantation. Commando troops will attempt to enter the compound from the east and the south. From the south, the government commando force will need to secure the small farm and ensure the occupants do not send any warning to Dinero Asesinato. Securing the farm, they will then travel through the fields to a small lake midway between the farm and the compound. Knowing this action will slow their progress, the second unit of commandos will make the hard trek from east of the compound through the hill country. It is estimated that the team entering from the east will arrive at the compound first. The compound is heavily armed with Arbol's own paramilitary force who patrol the exterior and interior. The compound is guarded at the front with a fortified bunker. There are also two watch towers that guard the rear access road and entry points. The other tower has a look out over the fields and any approach from the lake.

Here is my table and assorted pieces of wood to make some elevation changes. The main table is 6x4 and the smaller one is a standard card table. The compound will be set up on the left in an elevated position overlooking the fields of sugarcane and farmland.

My homemade game mat. I think it turned out pretty well. It is a large 8'x7' piece of heavyweight felt that I have painted.

A unarmed government drone keeps watch on the raid. 

'Arbol' Landymore's heavily armed and fortified compound. This is the watchtower overlooking the fields.

The watchtower overlooking the main entrance to the compound. The commandos struck first and took this joker out.

The drug lord's paramilitary force patrols the compound grounds.

A view of the compound from above.

Looking to the south showing the compound and the fields the commandos will need to cross to make their assault.

Commando Squad Uno led by Lt. Gomez.

Commando Squad Dos led by Lt. Perez.

My much needed cheat sheet.

Sgt. Geraldo Rivera crosses a field.

Commando Unit Uno will need to secure the farm and make their way toward the lake.

The lake sits just on the outskirt of the compound.

Arbol Landymore's boys keep watch for the boss.

The commandos move out.

They will need to move cautiously through the fields in the late afternoon raid. They are taking advantage of having the bright Central American sun in the eyes of their adversaries. 

Commando Unit Dos starts to make their way through the vast fields of sugarcane.

Arbol's guys come under fire from the commandos.

The vast sugarcane and hilly terrain has slowed the progress of Commando Unit Dos.

Commando Unit Dos has reached the outer edge of the compound and are engaged in a fierce firefight.

Commando Unit Uno take cover in the trees near the lake.

Commando Unit Uno's machine gunner was able to take out a couple of Arbol's men, but was soon cut down himself.

The commandos work their way to the edge of the compound.

The drug lord's men are giving the commandos a good fight.

El Loco Capitan takes the fight to the commandos. He is able to kill three in short order.

The drone is sending back images that the government doesn't want to see. Their two units of elite commandos have all been killed by Diego Landymore's private army.

All is quiet at the end of the battle. Diego continues his ruthless rule of the cartel and the drug trade and the commandos never really made it inside the compound to capture or kill the drug lord or his trusted Dutchman.

Here is my first AAR video if you want to see more. Thanks for checking it out.