Sunday, 21 September 2014

Making Troy, mud brick & adobe buildings

An Easy Troy, a cheap Troy,  a transportable Troy.

I've wanted one for some time. First, there's OGAM, then Song of Shadows and Dust   Plus, an end-of-table wall or even street fighting for Song of Spear and Shield would not go amiss, either. The ruins will create the Athens that fought against amazons and centaurs in mythic times.

Ruins, archaeologists for the use of. Lost city in middle of jungle. Can I find a “She” in 15mm? Lost colony, Stargate.

Plus, why should only modern cities suffer the ravages of nasty big monsters? Mos Isley if I change to adobe buildings.

Sometimes I think I'm a genius, prone to flashes of pure inspiration. Others I think “what an idiot”, something stares you in the face until the little light comes on. As covered before, the buildings in the area influenced by the Minoan are remarkably similar. Even the Romans didn't go this far. A standard of living not beaten in the West until the industrial revolution and beyond. The (Minoan) royal palace had indoor plumbing, baths and toilets that would have made Queen Victoria not amused with envy.

So I need X number of buildings of similar size, each with a flat roof. I'm in the kitchen holding a piece of foam with an interesting top. Light goes on. But I'm busy for the next few days! You could use a block of wood or balsa*. Neither of these materials work for me, so the cost and weight criterion would be exceeded, leading to a wailing, gnashing of (own) teeth and diverse alarums. Card or foam core would work, but would be a fraction of the strength.

This project proved a real learning curve*, so I hope some of you find this of benefit. Everything takes drying time and/or smells, so planning is advisable. Hunched over bits of foam then realising you've used ¾ of a tube of glue will give me an 'eadache. You appreciate them splitting atoms with copper chisels and bronze mallets 15 hours a day with never a tea break. I had planned a short article on my thoughts regarding Troy and the Trojan war because some things just don't add up.

The criterion:

Minimum 2ft square town with half the table covered in buildings and at least two roads crossing the terrain. Rather than have a crossroads, I want a central block the roads go around. The city wall must reach across 2ft and have a gate. Be usable on both sides. I'm not bothered about tiles lining up, I live in Poole and there's not a straight “here to there” in the whole town.

That's 4 full tiles, 2 half's minimum. 25 (ish) Standard buildings, which includes a few to “double deck”. Same in ruins as OGAM also requires each building to be “rubbleable”, a destroyed version to be available. Gods have the same effect as a good artillery barrage, while normal infantry can only do superficial damage. I need the “slightly bashed” to the “scraped clean”.

Each main road must be wide enough to accommodate 4 infantry abreast, which is about double what I'd do for a normal road, but never mind. I use my Warbases bases and go “broom brooom” to make sure it will fit. If I'd bother to do a more regular close order basing I could have thinner roads. I “jink” the roads to get a more natural feel and create interesting spaces for figures to dodge into.

Here is my first 1/3. Not complete, lacking the detailed parts but enough there to start gaming, which is purpose!

There needs to be features, nooks and crannies to allow for skirmish gaming. Market stalls, a pub, public loo and construction sites help. I also want to do an extra raised “des res” area with high rise buildings on one tile, stairs or ramp up, central courtyard. The ability to do a running or linear table will help design better games. I like the idea of “us and them” each side of the gate.

General rules

Must be light enough to be carried, and be able to fit into a collapsible plastic crate. (As it happens, this construction method makes for buildings that will survive a drop kick.)

Construction time and cost must be relevant to the use.

Further from the centre of the action, the less detail required.

Buildings. I dip the scourer top into a mix of PVA and raw sienna or raw umber hobby paint, scrape then dip into fine sand. This needs to be left for a couple of days to dry. The rest of the build uses EV/funky/hobby foam and cardboard.

The lower stone wall is made from a sheet of dark grey foam scoured in thin lines, turned then “stippled” to produce a brickwork effect. I like the blue colour from the book so I get the sheet wet then apply a thin wash of indigo ink before lightly stippling. As usual, this will take time to dry. Construction is done with UHU glue. For speed I pin the parts on.

The outer coating would be better in 4 wall-sections, if you've got the time. I tried it with some wall sections but gave up. I tried two parts to no benefit. By a stroke of luck, the circumference works out to just over the length of an A4 sheet. I cut to 30mm depth then attach to body as high as possible. Doing one side at a time works. Precut as much as you can and leave to “de stress”, cut excess rather than stretch. Don't rush, with two flexible materials you must be careful not to add tension. This leaves a small gap at bottom, but the stone cladding will cover that, which is added after the doors are cut out and a thin card (I was so lucky with the colour) door added. Next a 5mm strip of same card was added at door height. Then the bottom strip, making sure it's level. I use a small rawlplug box as a leveller. Last 10mm square windows are added. I originally planned using coffee stirrers as the wood strip, but the curved edges this method produces left them proud at the corners.

Adobe buildings are even simpler. A spread of no-more-nails or ghesso would give the rough look. I would raise the roof parapet 10mm and add a brown foam roof. Cocktail sticks will make my market stalls. Insert all the way through for that distinctive feature.

City outer wall sections are made the same way. Adding layers gives depth rather than a boring box. It may not be correct, but looks good. The top section on or off? I decide to make solid and to make the battlements out of double layer of light grey foam, one added to the outside then the inner added as a gap filler. Each wall section is made separately as per original method then glued together. Thin foam layers need to be added. Probably the originals had them, to allow for settling (this is an earthquake zone) and expansion/contraction.

Base tile. There's several ways of doing this:

solid blocks of building glued on the base

individual or blocks of buildings plus separate road sections

a textured base that the building either fits on or in.

I had intended to do “in”, as in my other city bases, but a test try to mount tree bases changed my method to “On”. I used a grey “yoga mat” from the 99p shop (UK) which has a textured under-surface. We are talking high quality here. This is attached to the sticky side of vinyl floor tiles using a layer of PVA. Warning, cheap foam can shrink when drying, so cut proud. Base layer of paint was a tester pot of near ochre. The greyish colour of the foam peeks through giving a nice blend with the blue/grey building base. Small garden patches were brown foam with flock added with PVA as if doing a figure base. Once dry, I used a thin wash of Daler Rowney burnt umber ink over the road. On market stall plots I added indigo ink to the mix. Building plots had a few drops of black added. This works very well, more like doing watercolours than anything I've done before. The remnants were spread over the road and worked in with fingers. In this picture the brighter yellow has been preped for the second wall section but not inked.

Smaller special areas can be added to narrow the roads and give depth. Market stalls are ideal, “you're supposed to haggle!”

Here is my first batch again, held in one hand.

That's it for now. Everything else I'm doing uses the same materials and techniques above or in previous articles. One last plug, these are The Scene's trees. I had got them to do stunted trees in shell areas or dead trees in Hades. I was so impressed I bought more, then they hang around-. I'll put some foam shrubbery on some, watch this space.

Plastic crate £2
Vinyl tiles £3.25
UHU glue £3 (other solvent brands are available)
PVA £1
No more nails £1 (rubbled buildings.)
Paint £1
Ink 50p
EV foam £14.95 (A4, 5 dark grey, 1 brown, 15 white, 3 mixed for rubble bases)

“Yoga mat” £1
Pan scourers £9
£35.70 about £7 per square foot.
 * This video is the best I've found on this approach to scenery, particularly in balsa -


Friday, 12 September 2014

Flying Lead The Giant Rat of Sumatra part 3

The Giant Rat of Sumatra, a trilogy in  four parts   Part 3

Or Not Quite In Her Majesties Name*

The Prologue

The same room map and officers but khaki uniforms, a ceiling fan powered by a pukka wallah stirs the tobacco fog. Cups of char have replaced the port.  “Now look here Caruthers*, these raids on the coastal trade and plantations must stop. The other ranks Char ration is down to a quart a day, if this goes on we face dissension** in the ranks”

The map is whacked in proper British military fashion.

“We'll have to send in the local lads, Ruperts Light Mounted Plungers are the nearest, should get a few volunteers, the Navy can provide a boat and barge.”

Dramatic pause, dramatic whispering in loud mode:

“We are going to send in Inspector Wafflin-Smythe (of the Singapore Police) and a section of Gurhkas!”

* I've nothing against In Her Majesty s Name, don't get me wrong. I like the central concept, but find the rules “flat”, designed to sell a range of figures. If you face a foe, you know what he's going to field, their capabilities and equipment. There's no uncertainty principle.

**The presence of a Caruthers is mandatory. Although they were classed as endangered

***A type of fungal infection causing prickly heat in and around the back of the barracks.

This is Flying Lead as Flashing Steel deals with an earlier period. Everything is designed through the builders featured here:

Points 112
 Inspector Wafflin-Smythe, British
Quality 3+

Combat 3
-Pistol, CQB Specialist, Crack Shot/Marksman, Fearless, Hero, Steady Under Fire, Strong, Weapons Expert
Points 90 Quality 3+ Combat 3
Single Chambered Rifle, CQB Specialist, Crack Shot/Marksman, Fearless, Steady Under Fire
Ruperts Light Mounted Plunger or Navy
Points 60 Quality 4+ Combat 2
-Pistol, -Single Chambered Rifle, Jungle-craft, Specialist

Pinky Bumblington, Chap about the Club and his Purdy Elephant Gun, Mayor in the Plungers
Points 71+22 Quality 4+ Combat 2
  -Pistol, Jungle-craft, NCO/Second In Command, Sniper, Stealth
Purdy rifle  (Points:22)
Armour Piercing, Lethal vs. Soft Targets, Range: Long, Slow Reload, Sniper Scope

Sgt Atkins and the Maxim Gun crew
Points 83 Quality 4+ Combat 2
  -Belt Fed Light Machine Gun pre 1945, NCO/Second In Command

Boat & Barge
Points 70 Quality 3+ Combat 2
  Long Move, Personnel Carrier 15 passengers, Vehicle

The Rotters, Cads and For'n Johnnies

Cultists. These are “mooks”, your average trooper, security guard or extra. I'm ignoring the rather modern firearm, counting it instead as an upgraded version of the Chinese repeating crossbow. The weapon builder gives me:

Points 12Quality 5+Combat 2 Fanatic, Mook/Extra/Cannon Fodder, Poor Shot

Weapon Points:4 Affects Only Living Targets, Range Short, Silent, Spread

Foo Han Chou the tazer does for hypno-ray, etc. Sprinter and Stealth for ability to get out fast. 
Points 128 Quality 2+ Combat 1

-Taser, Fear, Leader, Medic (professional), Specialist, Sprinter, Stealth

Su Chou, his daughter
Points 95 Quality 2+ Combat 1

-Shuriken/Small Thrown Knives, -Taser, Acrobat, Chucker, Fearless, NCO/Second In Command, Sprinter, Stealth

Kut Chou and Hak Chou - dirty great swords come under superior weapons
Points 75 Quality 4+ Combat 3

-Large Calibre Pistol, Combat Fiend, Fearless, Poor Shot, Strong

Aristu "Aka Aka" Chou
Points 74 Quality 4+ Combat 2 Drum Fed Light Machine Gun, -Large Calibre Pistol

Bit Chou, Chu Chou, Dog Chou, Eet Chou, Gou Chou, Mat Chou, Noh Chou, Out Chou
Points 56 Quality 4+ Combat 2 Large Calibre Pistol, -Single Chambered Rifle

Lin Chou, an anti-hero with a sabre
Points 89 Quality 4+ Combat 3
-Pistol, Acrobat, Combat Fiend, Hero
(I spent 2 sessions working these out, cut n paste, don't ask why they turned out different

Game One The Battle of the River Ratapooee.

The British came a-puffing up the river. Rats suffered from an adverse wind, so had to rely on the current*. Their plan was to head them of at the pass, then board before they could steam away.

The lead rat boat pulled out with the first cannon shot, well short. Skip to the British, the Major shoots the large junk's steersrat while the maxim rakes the pointy end**. The junk heads for the bank out of control.

The lead rats pull ahead of the British and try another shot that just about hits the river.
Meanstwhile the middle boat starts its run, but without the junk to attract fire it suffers from concentrated British fire and there's a trail of dead rats. Taking the initiative the Inspector orders a section of Gurkha's and a rating onto the small junk, which is taken on tow.
With enemies to front and rear, the British concentrate on the large junk, the maxim sweeping first the bridge, killing the chief rat, then amidships. Out of control, the junk piles into the bank for the last time.

But this leaves the first boat time to manoeuvre and its next shot crashes into the bridge, causing the launch to lose control. Using this confusion it slips away to raise the alarm. The expedition slips to the other side of the river and wait for darkness.
A recce across the river to inspect the tower. Plans are laid for the next night:
The maxim is moved to the launch, which will engage the tower by fire and movement.
The captured cannon is jury rigged on its junk into service as a mortar, manned by the three naval ratings
Using the remaining barge,  troops will make a stealthy approach to the tower, where the Plungers will blow the doors off.

*Direct current. The rats were relying on punting with their oars and other such naval stratagems. As you readers are of proven nervous disposition I decided to refrain from the salty naval descriptions.
**I must thank Phil Mackie for his help with the naval terms.

Game 2

Night has fallen like China across the river. The rats mourn the loss of their leader and his hat, last seen heading downstream in the fading light of day while all the little fishies a-nibble at the bits floating with it.

An old cannon is turned into a mortar, satchel charges are prepared (this is why all Thumpers & naval are rated specialists). A cold repast, mumbled talk before the off. Weapons are cleaned, lettered written as thoughts turned to loved ones thousands of miles away upstream. With a quiet nod, the boats are loaded and push off for the far shore. Once ashore, a quiet assembly and the little force pushes off.

Just as dawn first light breaks rosy over the horizon, here comes the launch with a whoosh, a splash and the chatter of the maxim, to be answered by the throaty roar from the forts cannon. Then there's the clump, whish, thump of the improvised mortar. All miss, but it's good fun and all eyes in the fort search the river.

The Thumpers take the cautious route through the ruins, but the Gurkha's march (if quietly) down the road, weapons to port, bayonets fixed.

Once again, roar, whoosh, shoot – one cannon shot comes close to the pointy end*, soaking the maxim but causing no other damage. The mortar gets the range, but despite hitting only succeeds in knocking some rats off their feet – but manages a good group (if in the wrong place).

The shore party make their way to the hedge, over the Thumpers go with the satchel charge. But their luck couldn't last, a rat party prepare to point pinkies, you get it, see or hear something, and drop a rain of objects on the Thumpers heads below. All bar one are forced to retreat. He has the charge, everyone holds their breath! Wizz-thump! The mortar again, scatters the piddlers all to pot, they fail to raise the alarm! A whoosh 'n a ratatatat and here's the launch again, but the guns are waiting and a more luck than anything and a hit on the blunt end* leads the launch floating powerless and backward down the stream to finally thump up on the bank.

 But wot's this? The maxim has actually hit someone, the rat leader/standard bearer doing lookout on top of the ammunition hoist goes “erk” and tumbles over onto the cruel rocks below.
Meanstwhile, back at the door, there's some shooting coming from inside the forts ground level. The chap lights the fuse and retires a bit sharpish. His Major takes (his only shot of the game) his rat down through the gunport the hard way. Bang! Gurkha Hai! In they go, a bit sharpish, tickling sticks** at the ready. I was cruel to Tony at this point, he directed, I moved and did the combat. More like a RPG with figures, as is often the case. Break left, break right – get that one! A few shots, but mostly bayonet work. One Gurkha down to a side attack (see later) and another, outnumbered falls. Quality will out and the Inspector's pistol pops off the last.

Leaving the Thumpers to clear up, the Gurkhas blood's up and it's out with the steel and they follow the Inspector up the stairs. A few scattered shots go wild and it's down to the press. Here comes Ling Chou***, antihero and combat expert on the flank of a ranker. With the flick, he's down and next he's a head of most of his chaps. Look, there it is, bouncing down the stairs. Crash goes the Inspectors pistol and the resistance is done.

The final stairs, to the battlements. But wait! The flare's down stairs with the Thumpers! There's nothing for it, another mad charge and frantic hand-to hand with the rat cannoneers to clear the stairs. One rat goes plummeting, but misses the Thumper. A dash and whoosh, the flare goes up just in time to stop the mortar.

I've let my English go a bit Kipling. I hope you can follow it. Try saying it out loud ('aat lawd).

We had intended to do another game, the remnants of the force bait the remainder of Fu Man Chou's force in the depths of the forest temple-. But it was not to be, with the loss of the launch (and work pressures forcing another layover) the expedition is up the river without an engine and must pool all their resources to get home. The evil genius lives to fight another day, I didn't expect that!
A lot of new resources went into this game:
Victorian persons courtesy of Irregular miniatures
Boats from the Scene's new-website sale.
Rubble made from linka remnants in PVA, based on credit cards and gently baked. Another idea nicked from TMP.
Scratchbuilt tower – which worked as expected, may be the model of pirate projects yet to come. I asked on facebook for feedback on whether to paint and do more. I got lots of “likes” but no comments. As it was a one-off, I could see no reason to do more cosmetics. OK, the pics aren't as pretty as they could be. Come on, tell me what you think!
10mm rats from Pendraken, including the Captain and Standards
Pyrats from Rebel. I ordered one pack plus pack of pirate-skeletons, but got 2. Not complaining as they all got used.
Cultists from I'm impressed with these, good variations including height. They waited in the wings but did not stride upon the stage.
I appreciate being able to buy singles from both Irregular and
*A big thank you again to Phil Mackie for his extensive nautical knowledge and terms.
**loaded rifle and bayonet
*** this level had better morale and a killing machine. I had toyed with the SMG, using one in close quarters would have resulted in more use of explosives. If the top layers command hadn't gone down they might have been met with the guns, very nasty. I'm a bit surprised Tony didn't set the magazine off as it was, being prepared to hack holes in the tower. I was doing a Space 1899 RPG with a well researched Russian hermaphrodite spy, based on a Napoleonic original, the evil villain who also went down to an already wounded Gurkha in the first session. Lesson learned.

A quick note on the Gurkha. I've taken a liberty to "back date" a fine police service a few decades.   I don't think there's any other relationship worldwide like the British Army and people and the Gurkha.  To say that we as a culture hold them in the greatest respect, affection, pride and a little dose of awe.  Let me tell you about my Aunt Rene.  For most of her life she had never spoken to a person who lived and was born within 10 miles of her home.  She got a job in the canteen at Bovington army base.  Back then there were two sets of younsters (tankers are never young, they age on enlistment) the Junior Leaders and a Gurkha training unit.  Now the mini-Ruperts were of a class (or asprired to) that demanded respect, but not intimacy.   I remember her explaining that during an extreme cold snap (-20.c) the Gurkhas had, without orders, climbed on the roofs and removed the snow barefooted.  These were "her boys" and there was nothing she wouldn't have done for these smiling, polite young men thousands of miles away from home in an exotic new land.