Saturday, 16 April 2016

Second Rank and File test game coming up soon

Just thought I'd better post something topical to show I am still at it!
I've planned to have a whole weekend next week with Kevin and James to give the Napoleonic version of Rank and File a really good test.
This is  the next step from our small game in January with a view to finding a good set of rules to refight Quatre Bras at 1:20 scale in 2017. Kevin has organised a game with a small Allied force defending the line of a stream, with woods and village and hill to their backs. A stronger French force will attack and then during the course of the two days both sides will be reinforced.

I've been using Kevin's sketch as an exercise in teaching myself mapping techniques with Adobe Photoshop Elements. Very pleased with the result, but I'm sure I can improve on this for the future.
So this will be the fictional Battle of St Metard
And here is the table I have prepared approximately to the map. The Watermill will stay but Kevin is bringing some better buildings for St Metard that will look the part and be less dominating, however I couldn't resist getting some of mine out meanwhile.

Apart from this I have to work on the rules a bit and try to ensure we have a credible set of status markers for the various aspects of the R and F rules. We are going to try the Wargamer ADC plastic trays again like we did for our 1:3 Waterloo games last year and hope they are not too overpowering with 30-figure battalions.  Also we are hoping to standardise figure bases to approximate to one another through our separate collections. As part of that I had to rebase many of my 95th Rifles.
Here are some photos

You'll have seen these chaps before in my report on the La Haye Sainte refight 
We are using 6-figure bases for close order troops, and 2 x 2-figure bases to
represent those 6 when they are in skirmish order. So these photos show the whole
30 figure battalion (approx 600 men) in both close and open order.
Kevin's happy that skirmishers can fire in two ranks deep as  we are assuming they
are acting in a very fluid open mass.
If anyone is interested in how I made the stream I have a lot of photos of it in progress and can give a "how-to" post, just ask.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Hougoumont at 1:3 scale: How I made the terrain - Part Four

Many of the wider angle photos in the  previous part showed the area of the Formal Garden looking like a parade ground! Would that it could have remained so! It proved to be one of the most challenging modelling assignments I've done, and in this part I'll tell you how I did it and wrap up on the Hougoumont terrain as a whole.

The first problem with the Formal Garden was what did it really look like before the battle. Kevin sent me this extract from a book he has, plus a written description of the whole complex
There was no date and all those curly shapes looked daunting.
So I then had a good look at the plan in Adkin's Waterloo Companion and thought this very practical; at least geometric shapes could be measured and planned, even if I didn't know if the stylised plants represented anything in particular. It also shows probable veg patches outside the garden wall, and some ideas for the Kitchen Garden on the West side of the farm.

But how to render some of the formality in 3D? Luckily I had taken photographs of the splendid model in one of the museums at Waterloo itself. Given that it had whitewashed walls and some thatched roofs this was different from our Hovels model, but I guessed more authentic? So I reckoned these ideas for the garden were worth having high on my list

There were a few other sources along the way but the main thing I learned from it all was that no one claimed a definitive garden design for June 1815, so I could do what I usually do - pragmatic and practical using up the materials I had rather than buying fresh. One fundamental question, though, has never been answered in any of the accounts I read and that is "What state could a formal garden be in after a very heavy rainstorm and bivouacs by hundreds of soldiers?"  I suspect it would have been a muddy, soggy mess but that wouldn't look very nice, and you lot would have been muttering "he bottled out of doing it formally!!"  Can't have that so I have taken up the challenge.  However, it appears that all the concentration on straight lines meant I wasn't reaching for my camera very often in this process - so the examples are rather random! I was using the large gravel effect as a base for all the garden work therefore would not have to make any more paths. Everything was stuck down on that so it would not move during play. 
First I did a generic pleasure garden to walk in with a design not unlike the Union Jack! I cut some templates first to test for size. The lawns are green pan scrub which I had used many, many times as fields for my 6mm ACW games. They were already dry brushed with highlights but needed cutting to the right shapes as per template.  The low ornamental hedges in between were strips of Astroturf plastic mat. It was hard work cutting them, but worth the effort.
It still needed tidying up and putting some leaf-type scatter to top up the hedges
Then I needed a classic octagonal garden but thought it could be dormant so that
 I could render it mostly as lawn. The template was quite complex but vital to get it
 right with all those angles and allowing room for paths. You'll note that drying tension
between my silicone "gravel" covering and the underlying papier mache has caused a big
 crack. I toyed with filling it up but that would have meant matching up the dry
brushing, etc and so i decided to leave it. Frankly in the excitement of battle I don't think
anyone cared.
I employed some "pre-loved" green felt that my late mother had used as a base for her
 dolls (thanks Mum) then used PVA and a sieve to get an even surface of grass scatter
for the formal lawns. Once it was dry (as with all the other surface effects) I used a very
soft wide water colour brush to sweep up the residue and recover it for re-use.
Next was a low hedged garden with what in my mind
 were small fruit bushes or maybe rose bushes. For these
 I used some of my 6mm trees which were made from natural
 seed pods that looked like small fir cones, painted, flocked 
and based. These covered some of that crack anyway!
At the right you can see some more lawn against the terrace wall and these are pieces cut from some Javis scenic grass mat. It's very thin and not durable - meant for railway modelling, so OK for this one-off purpose but I wouldn't recommend for active wargaming. That was it for the moment on the formal garden, though there are finishing touches still to come. 
Here is an overall view of what I had achieved with the Formal Garden. Round three sides I added a border of "soil" which was in fact more of my dried tea leave mixture graded using a sieve. I opted for simplicity as I knew we would be using lots of troops stands near the walls and any clever plants would just have got in the way.  I still had to add flowers and Kevin was bringing them so they would not be added till the troop set-up day.
I now moved my attention to the vegetable gardens, and in particular the ones along the southern garden wall. All of them used the ribbed brown carpet as a base, dry brushed and highlighted before the  veg was applied. There are no right answers for this; I think it's just a matter of getting bulk and texture however you can and covering with different shades of green scatter for variety. 

 This is a rather odd product from Woodland Scenics that opens out into a foliage
textured "sheet". They encourage you to stretch it and use as kind of a framework
for wispy plants. However in my case I just cut it up fine and stuck it down in rows.
This bed was just coated in strips of PVA glue and sprinkled with very fine
 light green scatter.  As ever, once dry it was cleaned up with very soft brush.
The end strip was probably the most successful. It was made by tearing up a piece of
green foam packing sponge that had come in a box with some small appliance. So, the
moral is, for modellers - if you think it might come in handy for something one day
 keep it, as it probably will!  In all these cases there is the option to coat the textured
foliage with PVA and sprinkle on a different shade and gauge of scatter/imitation
 grass or leaves according to taste.
Here is the Kitchen Garden.  I've used the same principle but with slightly more wild
plant foliage. On the right are small strips of cut Astroturf and beyond them lots of
strands of Astroturf made by cutting them off at the base without the plastic backing.
That can probably be understood more easily in the photo below.
I think the somewhat trampled look is appropriate
For completeness, although you are probably bored by now after 4 Parts, here are a few more photos of the practically finished table awaiting the troops. By now I have repainted the inside of the boundary walls along most of its length, opting for a more subdued smoke effect than the lively one for LHS. If you look hard you'll see I've also put in some trees to blend diorama like with the 3D versions - but they are rather crude as I had to paint them "upside down" bending in over the walls!  Just think of it as suffering for my art :-)
As seen from the French batteries on higher ground to the South-west 
Bird's eye view from the North. You can see I have added lots of imitation grass scatter to help define the tracks and also as weed growth round the bases of walls
The small orchard borders the North edge of the Formal Garden, where I have made a hedgerow of small trees and bushes. 
General view of the Great Orchard. All the trees are moveable to allow for large troop formations to move through.
(see bottom photo of this post)
A nice view of the South Gatehouse, with some of my renovated "Supertrees" in the foreground
View from the South, showing the 20-30 yards of "killing ground" outside the walls and up to the wood. Here Kevin's trees are in the foreground.
In Part One a viewer kindly complimented me by saying I made the terrain-making look easy. Well, I suppose it is easy if you take it in small chunks and set yourself wise limits, but a project on this scale is not to be undertaken lightly and, compared to most, I'm probably slightly mad (which is what we said at the outset of the project in August 2013!).  When the LHS game finished in mid July, I had a week to recover then started the deconstruction of LHS and the construction of this Hougoumont table. I worked on it almost every day till early September, several hours a day. Final touches of the little red flowers were stuck down on 10th September and we played the game 11th - 13th. But in a team we all play our part, and my dedication to this was to reciprocate the two years of enthusiasm and hard work put in by Kevin. Hopefully I had managed to put his Hougoumont Chateau in a setting worthy of it, and worthy of the hundreds, if not thousands, who died and were wounded in the battle for it in 1815.  Kevin and the five other project members between them provided more than 3000 figures to play the game; my contribution of miniatures for this one was a mere 100.

I will finish off with a few randomly selected photos of the game in progress just to give a taster of what is to come. These five photos by Kevin East.

Next time - Hougoumont wargame planning and methodology, though that might be a couple of weeks yet before I can manage the time.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Hougoumont at 1:3 scale: How I made the terrain - Part Three

When I showed the ponds in the  previous part you will have seen portions of the terrain finished up to that point, so this next sequence of photos gives a general tour round the table, at that stage. Also in this part,  I'll show how I tackled the most important feature - the "covered way" that allowed British reinforcements  to arrive under cover, and recuperate from their attacks.
Kevin provided about 50% of the trees. All the ones in the foreground of these two photos are his and are commercially  produced (K and M maybe?). He got the thin cypress/poplar trees a few years ago "especially with this game in mind!"

On the right are Kevin's own very nice scratch built trees.
Standard method of wire armatures twisted to make branches covered with a
compound to resemble bark. Then pieces of, I think, rubberised horsehair
suitably painted and flocked for a leaf effect. We thought they would do a good
job as the North edge of the big woods bordering the garden. Foreground veggie
 patches are still lacking greenery.
Kev's resin haystacks look to me as if they belong in this field. One caught fire
in the historical battle so we were going to allow for that to happen.
The eastern extremity of our table showing hedges and the Great Orchard.
All these were reclaimed and renovated from our earlier Waterloos.
Looking along the same stretch of reclaimed road
but due West towards the southern garden wall.

Junction of Great Orchard with the corner of the Formal Garden. The gate, and
the one below, were old pieces of plastic toy farm fencing with balsa wood gateposts
and cross beam, suitably painted and given some woodgrain effect with fine liner pen.
Back to the northern perimeter and the pond again. This track leads to the
"covered way" which I had yet to build on the "extra bit" of side terrain.
The NW corner of the table shows the rising ground to the West
overlooking the kitchen garden.We saw this as the setting for
a French flank attack so I made a battalion-sized open strip
with a hedge for initial cover.
This next group of photos is of the "extra bit". As I showed in Part 1 another 7 feet x 2 feet section was to go on the side table to form the northern edge of our battlefield, from the "covered way" up the lower slopes of Mont St Jean.
I have rebuilt the LHS "extra bit" with cardboard, PVA and paper, as with the rest.
This photo shows me applying the basic layer of gunge over everything except the track itself
Basic colour green painted, and the track, plus a small path up the slope, have been
modelled in "yoghurt consistency" filler with PVA and paint, then scribed with wheel
ruts once it had cured to a slightly harder surface
You can see it's all rather wet and messy

The grass has had several dry brushings now, getting steadily lighter and
more yellow while the track gets coloured with a deeper base coat. I just kept on
trying till they were a decent match for the main table.
Here are some photos of how the "covered way" area looked in 2014. All these views are from the East.
Hougoumont Farm buildings in the distance were being renovated
Above and below: still show the bank on the left which made it such a good
sheltered position for the Guard Light infantry to recover.
The next batch show the finished effect.  It was hard to know how far to go with trees for the covered way based on what we had seen first hand, so I decided to make bushy trees for the farm end of the track and very thick hedges on the orchard side but thinner hedges on the MSJ side. In the game we would make anyone sheltering in the covered way out of direct line for artillery and give them hard cover from musketry.
I realised that tall trees at the edge of this board would just be
knocked off by players and get in the way, which is why I opted
for bulky hedges fastened by the drawing pin method
described in the "Making the trees" section of the Waterloo 1
terrain making posts.

Here it is in action during the game. Kevin's photo shows Nassau infantry, Luneburg light troops and Hanoverian Jagers lining the forward hedge, with British companies reinforcing down MSJ.

That's enough for this part. I'll finish off next time with the Formal Garden and final details.