Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Town Fountain

A Rolling Stone?
A nice town needs an impressive fountain.
I wanted a round fountain but wasn't sure what would work well until I saw my daughter unwrapping a ribbon from a spool. Combined with the stones we used making our stone walls, and the printed cobblestone streets and we had a plan.

Start with the ribbon spool and cut the top part to get an outer rim.  Use plenty of PVA glue in the edges of the wheel and roll it in a bowl full of the small stones we used for the walls.  You will have to do this over a while as each part dries, otherwise the top falls away as it rolls.  Frustrating.
Then just let it dry.  Add more stone individually into any gaps that are created and you effectively get a round stone wall for the fountain base.
A Roman gets a more modern use
We then used a spool from an EFT/Credit card thermal paper roll for the column.  Thin cardboard provided for some stone paving around the base.
A couple of tiddly winks/plastic circles were used for the base and top of the column.
A suitable Roman Soldier was volunteered to guard a new position.  The heads from which we would have water pouring out were spares from our Warlord Games plastic British infantry. Just trim the necks so they are at roughly the right angle on the column.
While that was drying we undercoated the cardboard with grey paint.
Base coated with a few coins thrown in
We then glued the column into the middle.  As we were going to put in "Realistic Water" we painted the whole inside of the fountain with PVA glue to provide a seal.  Then we threw in some gold and silver glitter to represent coins. The cardboard on top of the fountain we painted with textured paint and then dark washed it to provide a stone look.  Once more, we waited for everything to dry well.
A base made from MDF
We then cut some 3mm MDF to an appropriate square size and rounded the edges.  We printed some cobblestone pattern and glued it around the corners.  Then we painted it with clear Satin varnish for durability and strength and it just looks better.  The fountain was then ready to be glued to the base.
Just add water
We poured in some of the "Realistic Water" we used in Private Timmy's Well and the Pegasus Bridge Pond. (Go to the Pond link to see more about this water product)
We then left this to dry for a few days. Some clear plastic thread was glued to the mouths of the heads and into the water using some craft glue.  When this dried we added more realistic water.
I'll just pop in here for some "medicinal remedy".
The final touches were some water feature stuff which dries clear painted on the clear thread to look like running water, a few weeds and dirt and black wash and the final step - a duck hiding between the legs of the Roman Guard.
Now we have a fountain worth fighting over.  Even if it just for the loose change!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Plastic vs Metal Challenge Accepted

Plastics or Metal?  Which is better for your model soldiers?
My position is that both have their advantages and disadvantages.  Metals need to be cleaned up by removing flash and perhaps straightening guns and adding a larger base, the proper undercoat is important, and there are many. but limited, poses for the men.
Also, the paint tends to chip on metals during use.
Meanwhile, plastics are cheaper, but they need to be assembled which can be fiddly, the guns can break and they don't have the same weight and heft as metal figures.
However, there is one argument I was challenged with that there are limited poses in the plastics because there are only 5 body shapes and limited arm options. To answer that challenge I present photos of 94 models made from the standard Warlords German Infantry plastic figures.
Have a look and see how many are the same.  There may be a few similar, but I contend none are the same.  This isn't bad as these are created all from the same sprue containing enough bits for 5 men.
Some figures we modified the legs or arms with a bit of green stuff or selective cutting or trimming with a knife, but the majority (over 90%) are just made with the standard sprue and imagination.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Sarissa Precision WWII collection

A Little Sarissa Precision village
In line with our plan for a massive multi player city fight, we have now purchased a few of Sarissa Precision's WWII collection laser cut MDF buildings.
We had previous experience with their Pegasus Bridge set which has proven to be a great kit, so I thought it was time to review their other buildings.
The kits use 2mm MDF for the main construction and 1mm cardboard for various highlights and features such as window and door trims, shutters, etc.
To get depth, the kit uses multiple pieces glued together.
Just add water
For example, the fountain has a base, then 3 pieces for the fountain sides and then another piece on the top.  This works well, although you can see the edges.  Once this is painted, it will all be covered.
Construction is pretty straight forward and the pieces all come out of the sheets well.
The instructions are pretty basic.  For Pegasus Bridge, the model was complex and naturally the instructions needed a little deciphering.
Pre-planning by dry fitting everything together and then applying glue worked well.  We just used PVA glue to join the pieces.  This allowed a bit of give while it was drying.
The MDF seems to absorb some of the PVA's moisture, so the fit is reasonably firm.
The models are much simpler than 4Ground's kits.
There are no internal walls or stairs, but you can remove floors and walls.
Lots of room inside - but no walls or stairs.
As the models are pretty simple, construction time is reasonably quick.  We made all these in one day.  By "we" I mean mostly the team of my wife and daughter.  What a great team effort.
We don't even play wargames!
The only downside is the construction is only part of the procedure.  Now we have to paint the buildings. ("Not our area!" my wife tells me.)
So, being simpler kits and unpainted, the benefit is price.  The terrace or small house is about $20 Australian.  The 4Ground Terrace house is around $42.
As always, you trade cost vs convenience.
But we like having some variety and are very grateful to have such a wide choice of buildings designed for wargaming.  And by making us paint the buildings, we will certainly have personalised scenery.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Bolt Action - A Game To Play

I have been wargaming for almost 40 years – with a large gap waiting for my boys to get old enough to play – and most of this has been WWII historical gaming. Over that time I have tried many different rulesets. I even published my own rules back in the early 1990’s which worked well for our wargaming group.
The biggest challenge of any set of wargaming rules is determining the balance between historical accuracy and gameplay.
And there must be sacrifices for gameplay.
For example, consider ground scale.  When using 28mm figures, a consistent ground scale should be around 1km = 14 metres.  While accurate, this would prove to be very difficult to recreate on a table top!
Add in time scales, movement speeds and before we even come to weapons, armour and battle damage and effects, we have made a ton of compromises.
Now, that is a good thing. Some rules focus more on infantry, or armour, or larger or smaller scale battles.  This variety is what makes the hobby so interesting.
So with that background in mind, why has Bolt Action set the WWII historical wargaming scene on fire? It isn’t just because Warlord Games published their own rule set and del their own collection of models and figures.  Other game companies do this all the time.  It is a time honoured tradition and helps companies sell their figures.  We still enjoy the occasional Pirate game using really simple rules published by an Australian miniatures company.
So what makes Bolt Action different?
It's all in the bag!

1. The Order Dice Game Mechanic

This is radical.
By default, most wargame rules have used the “I go You go” method of playing. This means your plans can more or less be followed faithfully by the troops.
In Bolt Action a “turn” is actually a series of mini turns for when each order die is pulled from the bag. The game can - and often does - change fundamentally in several directions in the course of one turn depending not only who gets the die, but which unit he activates and how well that unit does.  In Bolt Action, the tension is high because you need the die before he does or your unit may not survive! Or you want the last die because then your opponent will have to take his lumps.
A Russian Officer instructing his troops

2. The generalizing of units.

The armour ratings, morale and guns are all grouped into classes. So even though there are historical differences in armour of a centimetre here or there, from a game play point of view it isn’t that important.
This suddenly takes away a lot of the complex maths which didn’t add significantly to the game anyway.  In the rules I wrote so long ago we had a very exhaustive list of weapons and tanks with armour ratings for each side and different speeds and damage and hit ratings depending on distances.  Those 20 pages or so of really good statistics are summarized in half a page in Bolt Action.  And the game is not impacted negatively. Which leads to point 3.
And he played the whole day!

3. The streamlining of the game mechanics.

Having a simplified and standardised set of hit chances and modifiers means it takes very little time to memorise the main rules.
Normally, it takes some time to teach a new player how the game works.  With Bolt Action, we have found brand new players understand the game and make valid game choices half way through turn one!
This is how you can quickly gain wargaming converts.  If an interested bystander can join in a game and get actively involved quickly, they tend to keep playing.  We have seen many demonstration games where new players are reduced to lackeys that move figures and roll dice as the rules are a dazzling array of charts and numbers and options. Their interest wanes as the other side takes their gigantic move and their attention wanders.
A sure fire plan doesn't survive contact with the enemy.

4. There is the chance for things to go wrong – really wrong.

FUBAR (Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition) is not just an effect of a 12 when rolling morale.  It can be said to apply when you roll a 1 for artillery or air strikes (and hit your own troops), or run out of fuel for your mega powerful flamethrower, or fail to come on the board for that planned devastating flanking move.
On the other hand, things can also go really right. Even when the odds of hitting are pretty remote, a 6 and a 6 can still be tried. All this combines to make the game a great challenge, but also fun.
There are times when the dice gods conspire and nothing goes your way.  That can happen with all rules.  But somehow, with so many things happening in a 6 (or 7) turn game, odds are you will offset the terrible rolls with some great rolls and it all balances out.
A Commando Comic Moment

5. Finally, it’s cinematic

A wargame is not a historical re-enactment.  Much as we would like to kid ourselves that it is, the majority of historical battles were won and lost based on overwhelming odds and logistics of getting to the right place with more or better stuff than the other guy.
Bolt Action is still historic and bound by the historical facts and figures.  That is great because you will not be suddenly confronted with a brand new figure by the games company which wrecks the game play.  A WWII British rifleman will still be able to be used as such for years to come.
But a wargame has to be balanced or it isn’t much of a game.
Bolt Action balances the historical aspect with easy to learn gameplay leading to lots of valid choices.  The main effect is that playing a game of Bolt Action is like being in a movie or war comic. And the after game discussions are filled with what happened as well as lots of alternative happenings too – if only the dice went this way instead.

So why play Bolt Action?  Because it’s fun.

(This article was also published on This is a great source of Bolt Action articles and discussions about Bolt Action and WWII wargaming in general.)

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Great Modelling how to articles

The Architects of War have an excellent page detailing a number of modelling tips and techniques.

I especially found the following VERY useful:

About Big Trees - This helped me a lot in understanding trees and modelling scales.

Making Roads - an easy way to build roads using shingles.  More non Australian centric as it is not so easy to get shingles here, but the concept is certainly helpful.


Saturday, 8 March 2014

City Fight - How would you fight this board?

We are planning our next demo game to be an all day long affair with multiple players on one board.

The board is a standard 6 x 4 but as you can see, it is a full on city fight. We want everyone to have a great day playing - for as long as they are able to participate. We know that buildings are meat grinders and there will be high attrition. That is why objectives are central and why restarting with new armies or reinforcements is important.

The concept:
Each player has 750 points.
At least 2 players a side, but this will change as the day progresses.
There will be certain objectives set up - such as hold certain buildings for 2 turns, get to the other sides command point, and so on. Each objective gained earns 1 Victory point for that team (and the player) Also a VP for certain points destroyed.
As the day progresses, other players can come in on either side, and players whose armies are destroyed can start again.
 Dice are pulled for each 2 player pairing and I don't care if one pairing goes faster than another. New players join the pair of players with the least dice left.

These are my starting thoughts. I would really appreciate your input.
We will be play testing this soon with some extra players, but the board looks pretty enticing.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Sicilian CBD

Is it dinner time yet?
Crescent Root Studio has a new series of 28mm buildings, cleverly called "28mm Series 3".
As we did with the Beer Factory we have renamed ours to something more memorable - The Sicilian CBD.  We ordered the Restaurant (Model 28B3) and the Hotel (known as Model 28A3) and a collection of the stone walls (Model 28S3).  One thing about Crescent Root Studio - they really know how to give their great buildings catchy names.
Each building is pre-painted and mostly assembled.  All you have to do is attach each wall using small metal pins and you are ready to go.
The Hotel and Restaurant
The roofs are detachable and there are removable floors for each level.
Plenty of place for your guys.
The detail is very impressive and the painting is not just one coat of paint.  There is shading and contrast.
Worth fighting for
The side buildings of the Hotel are removable, while the roof of the restaurant back room is removable.  Basically you can put men everywhere.
The side buildings are optional.
Overall the set is pretty impressive. We are looking forward to having these buildings as part of our next battle.  There are two more buildings, the warehouse (Model 28E3) and the apartment (Model 28D3), which we will look at getting once funds allow.
We want the hotel!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Easy Path to Cobblestone Roads

It all starts with 3mm MDF
Back in October we posted a short item explaining roughly how we made cobblestone roads.
We discovered Dave Graffam Models' selection of paper scenery, available from The Wargame Vault.  At $2.95 (USD) this is a very good price for the designs.  The kit is in the form of a PDF and uses Layers to have varying road and sidewalks (footpaths).  Mac users will need to download Adobe PDF Reader to see and select the various layers.
At Cancon we saw one of the players had used the method we explained and did it even better.  So learning from experience, here is a more detailed guide on how to make easy cobblestone roads.

It all starts with a sheet of 3mm MDF.  We cut this into 15cm (6 inch) squares.
Some glue and the printed out roads.
The aim here is to print out the roads you want from the PDF and glue them to the MDF squares.
Using Adobe PDF reader, view Layers and you will be able to choose from a variety of road and pavement/side walk options.  You can also print sheets of the same type which can be used for a plaza or to cut smaller for lanes and alleys.
If you print out the PDF section without any resizing, it will be slightly larger than 15cm/6" which is fine.
We will be making the sheet slightly 3D by making the sidewalks separately and gluing them to the base later.
For glue we used Spray Adhesive which made the job a bit easier. When we ran out, we used PVA glue and a paintbrush to do the same job.
In the picture here we have a straight road section, a street cross roads and a full pavement section for use as a plaza, and to create the side walks.
Apply glue to the back of the section
If you use Spray Adhesive definitely do it outside.  We used a cardboard box to reduce the spray's spread to everything else.  The fumes are not good inside.  Otherwise just use PVA glue.
Place the MDF square in the centre
Place the MDF square in the centre of the glued section.  This should leave a small gap around each edge.
Trim the excess
Trim the excess from each edge.  The easiest way is to use a roller blade enjoyed by Quilters.  Then you can use the edge of the MDF sheet as a guide and make beautiful straight cuts. But don't use your resident quilter's good cutter.  You will get in trouble.  Buy your own, or just use her old one.
Cut a strip to use for pavements
To make the pavements/sidewalks we used some framing matt board/thick cardboard.  Matt board is great as you can normally get offcuts for free if you are nice to the people at your local framing shop.  What is rubbish for them is useful for you.  We cut strips 30mm (1 1/4") wide.  This fits a 25mm (1") base well.
Now cut them long enough for the MDF squares
Now just cut these strips so they are the same length as the MDF squares.  Use the MDF squares as your guide rather than a ruler.  We first tried measuring 15cm, but forgot about the saw blade width, so each square was the blade width less than 15cm (6").
Glue the pavement to the strip
Each square from the PDF is divided into 6 x 6 smaller squares.  We printed a number of squares with pavement only and trimmed them to 1.5 smaller square's width.  This allowed us to glue these strips and wrap them around the strips.  Now the pavement has the edges look like stonework too.
Glue the pavement to the square
The Pavement is now glued to the square with PVA glue.  The same method applies for whatever size or shape pavement you are doing.  Just glue a piece of pavement slightly larger than the cardboard and wrap it around.
Once dry apply clear varnish
Once the glue has dried properly, paint on some Satin clear varnish.  The Satin gives a slight shine without being over the top, brings out the colour and makes it more war-games strength.  Use a wider brush as it is quicker and you will have less stroke lines.
An afternoon's work
In an afternoon we were able to complete 24 sections, plus about 20 skinnier sections for use as alleys and lanes.  These alleys were made by having skinnier pieces of MDF (the side bits that we couldn't get to 15cm) and then covered them with pavement too.  Some were covered with cobblestones and others pavements so we could have different types of walkways.
Look both ways before you cross
Here is the effect on the tabletop.  Wargaming strength cobblestones, very cost effective and they look good too!
Use them as a base for other scenery too.


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