Sunday, 11 November 2018

Normandy buildings.1.

Another issue from our Normandy Test game was a lack of buildings. This is an old Hovels building I'd had for ages but not got round to painting, put off by the combination of so many windows and the fact that the chimneys hadn't cast properly and needed replacing.

The solution to the first was to just grit my teeth and do it and for the second, thin strips of paper wrapped with lots of PVA around a cocktail stick then daubed with a PVA and gritty wood-filler mix to create some texture and hide the overlap of the end of the paper role.

The model came with interchangeable roofs for the two larger houses - intact, as shown, or war-damaged.

One thing I don't like about this building group is that it just sits there on the table with no surroundings to create context - I'll return to this later.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Wood for the trees

Among the irritations of my old scenery in our WW2 test games was that the individually-based trees were quite prone to falling over. I'd been thinking about rebasing them anyway because the ground colours didn't quite match my recent basing and table scheme so this was the final push needed to actually do something.

I have a load of old, rather small,  twisted wire and string trees - back in the day this was state of the art but things have moved on and people are making some amazingly realistic trees now. I was especially impressed with the Dagger and Brush blog's attention to detail.

I did think of binning my old, far inferior trees and starting again but in the end my parsimony/aversion to waste and laziness won out so I decided to make the most of what I had. The first priority was to rebase them on larger multi-tree bases so they wouldn't fall over so easily and would match the rest of my scenery. A secondary issue was that these and my bocage hedges were shedding flock all over the place so the first step was to spray everything with a load of Woodland Scenics' Scenic Cement. The actual basing was done with my usual sequence of flexible filler /caulk, PVA and sand/rocks then static grass and tufts.

I wanted to add a bit of extra interest so added a few rocks and fallen tree trunks, either sculpted from Milliput or actual twigs. I also added in a few bushes and trees made from rubberised horse hair. Having run out of old Amtico sample pieces, the base material was cut from a leftover 'plank' from re-doing the bathroom a few years ago - nothing wrong with being a hoarder!

I have a few poplar /cypress trees that I tend to use as scatter and within villages, especially for the Italian Wars and I rebased these too on larger washers for better stability. I need to get a few more cypress trees and larger than these rather garden-sized examples.

Inspired by the Dagger and Brush blog, I thought I'd have a go at making a tree from scratch by the bent wire method. It is actually quite easy and satisfying to get a decent, albeit far short of the excellence achieved on that blog, result but the time taken convinced me that I have far too much in the lead pile to think of starting over with my trees.

Overall, I'm quite pleased with the results - not as good as the best modern examples but a big step up from what I had and matching well with the rest of my scenery.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Expanding horizons

I started this blog to record my progress in building a 15mm French army for the 16th C. Great Italian Wars for FoG-R - hence the name. I completed enough units for that (plus some options) in the summer of 2016 then called a halt because it looked like the excellent Venexia 15mm range would be coming back into production with Sgt. Major Miniatures and I wanted to use those for the remaining units - mounted arequebusiers, archers, better gendarmes, for example.

Time passed,  Sgt. Major Miniatures closed up shop and my blog sat in suspended animation. I have been doing other wargaming things, as I mentioned in a post in October 2017, I have been doing other wargames and modelling things but the narrow blog title and scope I had chosen put these beyond what I thought I should include here. I started another blog 'Midland Shipyard' for my waterline ship models in 1:1200 and 1:1250 but I have a wide range of interests (some might say I'm just easily distracted) and I don't want to end up with a dozen different blogs.

Whilst I'm not going to change this blog's name, I've decided to make it a general one for all my wargames and modelling activities apart from the waterline ships.

There's a lot of catching up to do and exciting possibilities for the future.

I've been making a lot of scenery, prompted especially by some WW2 Normandy games and have just had my first game of Mortem et Gloriam so I am looking to re-base and complete my old Late Roman army for that.

Of course, Venexia 15mm Italian Wars is now back in production, thanks to Lancashire Games - I'm looking forward to getting some of those soon. Almost simultaneously, Blue Moon launched a very wide and high-quality range - none specifically French as yet but they were canvassing opinion on TMP a while ago so I'm hopeful. There are also rumours of new figures from Khurasan and their late 16th Century range looks really good too.

So many possibilities, so little time and focus!

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Distractions, distractions...

Whilst on holiday on Normandy at the end of July, I almost but not quite completed the second batch of aventurier crossbowmen then got distracted by work, holidays, climbing and some other painting and wargaming.

A big interest of mine is warship design and models. After a childhood of 1/600 Airfix plastic models and some 1/1200 original Triangs, given to me by a favourite uncle, this lapsed for many years then I realised I could afford the definitive reference books (Friedman; Raven and Roberts; Burt; Grove...) and discovered the world of 1/1200 and 1/1250 waterline models. Since then I have built up a bit of a collection, mostly focussing on Royal Navy ships of WW2 and after. 

One I recently bought on Ebay was a Delphin model of a Type 81 frigate. I carelessly broke the mast off and one bit of restoration led to another so I ended up completely stripping it, remodelling the 4.5" guns, adding a lot of detail and repainting. Bear in mind this is 88 mm long.

The one part that is very unsatisfactory on this (and all other late WW2-1960s RN) ship is the mast - a solid casting just doesn't represent the characteristic scaffold-like masts very well. My longer term plan is to design some photo-etch brass but for the moment, I have just painted the original cast mast.

Another long-standing interest is WW2 land wargaming, especially Normandy. I have tried a few different rules over the years without ever quite finding what I was looking for: a battalion-scale game with good balance of simulation and playability. A couple of weeks ago we tried 'Iron Cross' from Great Escape Games

First impressions were good for playability but less so for accuracy of simulation and (especially) the possibility of scaling up to a full battalion and squadron of tanks. We are playing around with some ideas for house rules to meet these objectives. 

Another obvious deficiency from the game was that I don't have enough buildings and those I do have don't look much like Normandy. Thankfully Tiger Terrain have some excellent resin models so I have bought some of those. I was very impressed with the quality and efficiency of their service and the models look fantastic - much the best I have ever seen. If they did models suitable for 16th Century Italy, I could have saved a lot of time and trouble with tiny cardboard rectangles! 

Friday, 22 July 2016

Good news for Venexia fans!

In the gap between me stopping collecting and painting 16th C war-games figures, Venexia came onto the market and disappeared from it. Whilst I have managed to buy a few of these fantastically detailed figures second hand, it has been very frustrating to think of what might have been.

The master figures were bought by Sgt Major Miniatures in the USA and there has been a lot of speculation and anticipation about when and whether they would be brought back into production.

A few weeks ago I wrote to them asking and have just had a very welcome and encouraging reply:

Subject: Venezia Italian Wars range 
Sorry for the delay, I have been having some issues with the web site eating messages, and failing to alert me as they come in, cleaning up many old messages this morning... 
I am slowly working on getting the line back into production.  I have issues with the master figures they supplied when I bought the company, they melt in the mold maker, I think they must have some solder or something in the metal, its completely ridiculous! Anyway, the process to fix this is incredibly slow unfortunately.  I have gotten the Ottomans back into production, and the Italian Wars should be back in the next couple of months.  The Louis line is currently being re-done, and the rest of the lines will follow that.  Its been 4 years since I bought this line, and I want it back in production as much as everyone else, probably more, I haven't been able to make any sort of return on my investment thus far...  
Sincerely,Sgt Major Miniatures

Good news - the wait should soon be over and I'll be at the front of the queue for some gendarmes!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

A small barn

I started this a while ago but was sidetracked by my French crossbowmen and distracted by work so made little progress. Another cause of delay was finding some suitably thick card for the steps - I started off doubling the mounting card I use for the walls but that was a huge faff and left an obvious line half-way up each step. Then I found an out of date catalogue about to go in the paper recycling with just the right thickness and in half an hour had my steps.

The idea was to make a small barn with space upstairs for one of the farm hands to live. The design is based a little on one of the out-buildings of a place we have stayed on holiday in France.

The method is the same as the other buildings I made - a basic structure from picture mounting card and bricks /stones made from cut up old business cards stuck together with wood working PVA glue. Once the basic structure is together, I give it a wash with dilute PVA and ready-mixed filler for strength, texture and to soften the edges.

I painted it with DecoArt Crafter's Acrylic - Country Maple as a base coat and inside then dry brushed with lots of Tan  and a little bit of Antique Gold (looked like yellow ochre to me) to break it up. To give a bit of variety I then picked out individual 'stones' in different browns, ochres, greens and greys. My first go used much too strong colours and after a massive amount of dry brushing with Tan paint, the effect was like a photo with way too much grain and contrast so I flattened everything down again with a wet dry-brushing of tan, reinstated some shadows and colour variation and re-did the colour picking out with more toned down colours.

After a more careful dry-brushing with slightly diluted Tan and then Tan-white, the rather vivid colours toned down and it all came together.

One thing I did very differently this time was the doors and shutters. Rather than using cardboard and using paint in lieu of texture, I tried to follow the techniques in this amazing building blog making buildings in foam board and used plasticard scored and shaped with a knife and textured with a suede brush. I think the overall effect is much better - more natural and easier but it does mean I have three buildings with very different woodwork.

Even so, the effect of the whole little village / hamlet is what I was looking for with a small jumble of mission tiled roofs and sun-bleached walls. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

French Crossbowmen - Aventuriers (3) first group finished

I have finally finished the first batch of crossbowmen.

I think replacing the crossbows and so having the weapons all more or less the same size allows these originally very different figures to work together well, apart from the very chunky Black Hat figures which are marginal - two of Sebastien Chabal's ancestors playing their part in the Italian Wars.

I am pleased with the detail of the replacement crossbows, all the fiddly work making the bows, strings and bolts seems worth it now. I was in Venice ago few weeks ago, looking round the Doge's palace armoury and the modified crossbows with a relatively slender, metal bow with a simple curve seem a better match for the 16th Century crossbows I saw there than were the disparate cast metal crossbows the figures originally came with.

I have another 12 of these to finish now, two more guns, another general and some mounted arquebusiers (which will also need a lot of Milliput modification to make them look like they are from the 1520s). After that, Gendarmes and Archers (the mounted lancers)...