Monday 23 January 2012

Story of a stone bastion

It's certainly funny how some things in life turn out, and I wonder how many successful business ventures have been founded on pure chance encounters. I'd like to tell you about this one, though not sure how "successful" it will be!
It all started back in September 2010 when the Duchess of Grandchamp and I were on a short break visiting Bruges in Belgium. It's a very attractive city especially for anyone looking for inspiration to build late medieval style European town house models. However, not much of the original ring of impressive city wall remains - only about 4 or 5 of the big gated entrances, which are well worth a close look if you visit.
One of the city gates in the South West of Bruges ,
photographed on zoom from the distant central clock tower. 
But that is not the subject of this blog as our break was long enough to take a canal boat trip to the village of Damme about 5 miles to the North East of Bruges. This is a lovely example of a Belgian village with well preserved buildings, though not large. Outside the village limits, with some difficulty, I was able to identify two brick or stone constructions that must have formed part of larger defensive works.
The Duchess, in non-regal baseball cap, helpfully adds a sense of scale to this
 ammunition casemate which was only identifiable by a little plaque next to the door.

An ammunition store that must have been originally part of the wall.
We couldn't actually get to it.
In fact a small nature reserve had been made utilising well overgrown trenches and defences from the 17th Century - great for wildlife but not for history enthusiasts. It was closed the day we visited so I could not explore further except, tantalisingly, one could see this edifice about 100 yards away.

 I'm convinced it is an overgrown heavy gun bastion.

Back home, a month later I had been making a large batch of picture frames and found myself surrounded by various lengths and thicknesses of waste offcuts of wooden moulding, mostly with 45 degree angles. I began to play with them and slowly a number of redoubts began to form in my mind and on my workbench. The largest pieces soon brought memories of Damme and it occurred to me that one doesn't often see terrain models of stone bastions large enough to take a siege gun or heavy fortress cannon. The stepped nature of the moulding needed a thick disguise and I began to think about defences that may only have been used a few times in anger in maybe a century or two. With an under strength garrison and no nearby warfare such places might get overgrown so by the time your enemy approaches the sandy earth will have blown in and weeds and grass taken root. Much of it might need cursory removal to get the gun in action. Anyway this is what resulted from my labours:

The rear view shows the entrances to two ammunition casemates within the wall and there is a big ramp to get the gun up and down for maintenance. This has enough room for plenty of crew, cannonballs, gunpowder barrels or vignettes of the gun captain's pet dog to please any modeller. Not sure what make or calibre the gun model is as I got it second hand in a big batch of 25/28mm artillery but it's too large for a field piece so this situation seems just right to me. I also thought this bastion might represent a shore battery position with sand dunes beginning to encroach over the stone work - pirates, anyone?

I took it to the Bring and Buy at "Warfare" in Reading in 2010 and sold it fairly quickly. I thought that was the end of the story ...but I was in for a surprise.

At  "Warfare " in November 2011 I was casually perusing the trade stands, mind in neutral, when I saw a glass case containing a "show special" resin model. I did a double take, took a long hard look and then recognised it as "my" stone bastion. I introduced myself to Richard Randall, the stall holder, and explained I am a professional , if part time, terrain maker and gave him the background on the model as explained above. We had an interesting discussion about copyright and that he had bought the master model off Ebay, no longer bearing my "CG Designs" makers label. This all took me by surprise as I hadn't thought that any of my designs would be "ripped off" like that, so maybe this can be a wake up to other model makers who care about such things to ensure a permanent copyright mark if you can.

The conversation soon turned to how the two of us could do business, but before I tell you more about that have a look at the resin model rather than the original:
Above is the fresh resin casting with the same 28mm siege cannon I used in the original photos. When I received it from Richard there was about 5 minutes cleaning up to do, rinse it in soapy water and I was ready for the next stage. But before that below is a view of a different gun. This is one of those horrible little metal toys you get in gift shops at historic sites in the UK. I think it is about 40mm scale, but who knows, I don't collect 40mm I'm afraid. However, I think it suggests that 40/42mm figures would fit in here and look good, so pay attention you Prince August, Sash and Sabre or Deutsche Homage fans.   

I got out some spray cans and gave it 4 different colours. Dark brown as an undercoat, then grey for the stonework and a mid brown for the earth, finishing up with a very light cream highlight spray.

If you were a Warhammer 40,000 gamer you could probably use it just like that! But I then moved onto dry-brush work and acrylic paint to get somewhere near the effect of my original.

I wanted to see what effect the texturing would have just with dry-brushing and I think it looks pretty good. Bear in mind the original model was not made with the intention of becoming a master for a resin casting, and there is no flock on this one. I think it would be improved by some judicious additions of static grass or tufts and maybe even a little sand, but that's a matter of taste for the individual.  So you can judge the quality of the casting (not my figures!) here is a close up:
If you want to see a few more photos have a look here Resin Stone Bastion
What about the uses for this resin bastion? Well, a stand alone bastion is what I originally saw at Damme, but Richard quite rightly saw it as part of a sturdy fortification and has commissioned me to make some walls and joining corners. These should be available commercially by very early March along with a smaller field gun redoubt and further down the line we'll move on to 15mm, first with a windmill similar in style to my 28mm ones.
This stone bastion is available now from Richard Randall (see contact details below) priced at £25 plus postage. I think it could do service in any period from Renaissance to World War Two and, depending on taste, for figures from 20mm to 40mm. It measures 13 inches by 9 inches overall and, for the record, I managed to get in a full 48 figure battalion of large (appropriately Redoubt  Enterprises) 28mm figures, if you wanted to garrison it with infantry.

Where can you get one (or more)?
Richard runs a business with his father called Elite Wargames and Models. I believe so far they have tried to concentrate on resin terrain models that are not often covered by others, for example they do a line of outbuildings,  garden sheds and back gardens that fit in well with WW2, Home Guard type games or a A Very British Civil War. I'm not sure if these are  for 28mm or 15mm, as Elite W & M are also keen on the smaller scale. That's because they have recently bought the moulds and figure stock of what used to be  Jacobite Miniatures and are working on sorting them out for marketing. I'm told the website will be up and running shortly but meanwhile if you are interested in any of these things or wish to know more about the 25/28mm bastion and forthcoming items please get in touch with Richard by one of the following means :

Email :  rich randall <>
Phone: 07876506395
Snail mail: 44 Austin Road, Woodley, Reading, RG5 4EL

Sunday 15 January 2012

Creation of Guest Gallery

This is just a brief post to let readers know I have created a Guest Gallery as a separate tab (above)  to my "Home" blog. I don't think it shows up in the normal way. The first entry shows 4 interesting games played recently by Ian Allen and they feature Dixon miniatures and Deutsche Homage "classic style" 42mm figures, as well as games using Blackpowder rules.
Here's an example

Let us know what you think.

Monday 2 January 2012

Grunburg Dragoons - my first real Imagi-Nation unit

Count Gregorius von Grunburg has been doing more than his fair share in the defence of Reikland, as witnessed at the Battle of Futonville (see battle-of-futonville-report.html) where his red coated infantry formed the majority of  Imperial forces present. Grunburg did not have any cavalry there as the Count had not yet had them fully equipped and trained. He is very keen to impress the Elektor of Reikland , not to mention her Highness The Empress, and wanted his cavalry to be "state of the art". As this picture of the Grunburg Dragoons shows, by 1760 standards they really are ahead of their time!
Grunburg Dragoons on manoeuvres

The Count has kept the red coats which are characteristic of all the Grunburg Contingent and specified a rather fetching mid-blue for the facing colour, but the crowning feature is the helmet with fore and aft comb and side plume, a style which would, in later years be popularised by one Banastre Tarleton (Banastre_Tarleton). He has gone for a striking bright red for the main feature of this headdress.
The Regimental Flag is of the standard pattern for Grunburg and some other of Reikland's counties.
 This bears the Imperial dragon at its centre with the regimental facing colour as the background to a white cross, and the name of the regiment in gold lettering. However, the Count is pragmatic and realises that his small army may one day be called up in the service of the Empress' ally, King George II, and so the manoeuvres also include familiarisation of the troopers with an alternative banner following the British pattern.
Trooping the alternative Colour
The official Grunburg uniform orders specify a rather large "GR" cypher on the housings of the horse furniture, ostensibly standing for "Grunburg-Reikland", but rumour has it that the Count has grander designs and it might be anticipating "Gregorius Rex". In any case it will come in handy if the Grunburg contingent has to take its place in the line with British or Hanoverian cavalry.

But the Count dug deep in his coffers after he was persuaded by uniform designers from Vienna that the "next big thing" for cavalry would be Grecian style helmets of an even more majestic style than the full comb variety commissioned for the troopers. So Count Gregorius ordered the creation  of a small Elite company made up  of gentlemen's sons, whose patrons could afford a really gorgeous uniform liberally sprinkled with silver lace.
The Elite Company, including a trumpeter in reversed colours
 and on a grey horse

It is expected that Count Gregorius will want to increase his profile by leading this new regiment to join the rest of his contingent in the next battle in the Chambreuse Valley.

Well, back to've guessed it, all these figures are of the Napoleonic period and 40 or more years later than my 1760s Imagi-nation campaign.  But if Phil Olley can recreate the classic look of  "Charge" using  Waterloo-era Royal Horse Artillery figures (see this for example sittangbad-day-and-other-news) then I think I'm allowed some artistic licence.

The 9 troopers, officer, standard bearer and trumpeter are by Front Rank and were bought at a Bring and Buy a few years ago. Too good value to overlook even though I didn't know at the time what they would become. The Elite Company is made from some superb 28mm figures  of unknown provenance that just happened to be in a box of mixed figures I picked up for a fiver. They were in several pieces with heads and arms as loose parts. I guess they are Wurtemburg Light Dragoons or some such German state around 1805-1815. If anyone can enlighten me please, that would be nice.

My Grunburg flag is based on Henry Hyde's Faltenian one which he generously put on the internet several years ago. I wouldn't use it as a straight copy but mine is heavily modified by completely reworking the background texture, changing his lion to a (Welsh!) dragon, and compiling my own gold lettering. The "British" flag is just done from a scan and redesigned in the computer to suit a generic effect. Whenever the figure is suitable I go for a "hole-in-the-hand" effect, so I can make alternative flags - one for use in Imagi-Nation battles and a somewhat more "authentic" one when the regiment may be called up for service in a historical refight. As re-enactors will be well aware, from a distance it's not so much the uniform but the flag fluttering  overhead that can give the best clue to a unit's allegiance.

I'm quite pleased with the cypher and insignia on the horse furniture. This is all done by some fairly detailed scanning and modifying using my Serif PhotoPlus software. The trouble is you need to get it down really tiny- about 3mm ideally, and when I compile it big enough to work on it's hard for me to accept that I have to make it so small - hence they are over-large - but that suits Gregorius's inflated ego I suppose! I made up an A4 sheet of various colours and sizes (downsized  a bit now) and have added it to my Download sidebar under Miscellaneous. You are welcome to use it for non-commercial purposes; there is also one with French Fleur de Lys, which I used on my Bercheny Hussars (hussars-anyone?). I printed all these onto special transfer paper so they slide easily onto the figure and don't take up much of a profile, however difficult decisions have to be made whether to use transparent or white paper. My transparent transfers did not work at all well on the blue trumpeters so I had to use the backing paper - however, this raises the decals a bit too high. But you be the judge....

Full details on the decal paper and a video can be seen here.
Please let me know if you found any of this interesting or useful.

Happy New Year to all visitors to this Blog.