Sunday, September 30, 2012

Progress on the Titanic

I've managed to get a few hours in for my 1/700 Titanic model. I've done most of the assembly work up to the point where I'll need to undercoat the thing and paint the interior decks visible through the model before proceeding with assembly. The model originally features the complete ship on top of a plastic display stand, like so:

I think it looks a bit cheap and makes the model quite knock-overable, so I decided to put her in the water and do a sea base. I cut the hull with a carpet knife to a depth I checked from this cross section:

I sawed a piece of floor laminate to a size of 50 centimeters by 15 centimeters and glued the hull on it using a hot glue gun. So here's where I'm at:

I managed to break a thin plastic flagpole from the aft while dry fitting the sections together. I think it'll be easy to replace with a pin or something. Luckily I didn't break the mast, It looks really brittle. Next I will undercoat the hull black and the other portions off-white and start painting. My nephew who I got the model from came by to check on my progress and wondered why the model didn't come ready painted. Kids today, huh? Well, I got the chance to tell him why the model doesn't come already built and painted in the first place.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Some Musket & Pike and a side project

I got a chance to play a game of the excellent Musket & Pike Battle Series again. This time it was the Battle of Nyborg, 1659. The Danes and the Swedes are at each others throats again. The Swedes were on defence with good morale troops, but the Danes had the numbers.

The opening setup. The Danes outnumber the Swedes but are restricted by some quarreling in the command chain. The Swedes have good ground and superior morale.

The Danes move closer but the hedges make retaining formations difficult. The cavalry wings on the left clash, leaving the usual chaos in their wake (Two equal cavalry wings tend to erase each other off the field in this game).

The Danes attack the Swedish line but are repulsed at every turn. The terrain makes it difficult to exploit numerical superiority, and the Swedish combination of superior morale and advantageous ground makes for a too hard a nut to crack this time.

I didn't remember to take more photos as the game ended up being rather quick. I played the Danes and was unable to find a weakness in the Swedish defense. Even though my troops were recovering their shaken formation in easy charge range of the Swedish cavalry, he would not be baited from his position. It really is a tough puzzle to solve for the Danes. Better luck next time, I suppose.

Next, here's a picture of the hill system I'm working on at the moment:

I've successfully used.. whatsitsname.. the mattress foam thing for hills before. Until now, I've had to cut each hill according to scenario design every time, but now I thought of a better idea. I've started to replace the pre-cut hills with foam hexes, 6 inces across. I lay them out to form a mass closely resembling the hill needed, tape them down using painters tape, and then just lay the gaming mat on top. It worked just fine, and I doubt you noticed any unsightly hex angles poking out of the terrain in the Antietam report!

Last, I've begun building a 1/700 scale Airfix Titanic. My sister usually gets me something rather uninspired like cologne or a pair of boxers as birthday or christmas gifts. This time she let my 7 year old nephew choose a gift for me for my birthday last summer, and I'm quite pleased. He understands!
Anyway, I better finish the model before my nephew forgets he ever got it for me. I haven't done models such as this in ages, and the smell of the poly cement gives me flashbacks to my teenage days and badly painted Spitfire kits.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Antietam 150th anniversary battle in 6mm

I was supposed to write my anniversary battle report for Antietam yesterday already but I had a chance to play some Musket & Pike instead. I'm sure you understand. Note that there are a lot of pictures in this entry, probably more than you care to see :)

We played our Antietam game last weekend using the brigade Fire and Fury rules. The scenario for the northern part of the battlefield was much, much too big for our combined collections, but the afternoon battle south of Sharpsburg was much more manageable and posed an interesting scenario. In the scenario, Burnside's corps, having been stuck at the soon-to-be-named Burnside's bridge for a good while have finally gotten across and are advancing towards Sharpsburg. It is late in the day, but the Confederate defences are weak there. If successful, Burnside would threaten Lee's line of retreat. They don't know however, that A.P Hill's light division is on it's way from Harper's Ferry to reinforce the defenders.

I won't bore you with a detailed story, but rather put some comments on the pictures. It's not like any of us actually read the text in long battle reports, right?

The historical evening battle [Wikipedia]

Opening setup. The Union forces greatly outnumber the Confederate defenders but a half of the brigades are restricted from moving until a Union brigade holds a portion of Sharpsburg.

Casualties from the fight to take Rohrbach bridge litter the ground.

The chances of the Confederate defenders to stop the Union assault seem remote.

The Union forces advance to take the guns at the Confederate left and receive the opening volleys of the battle.

Union forces advance on the left. The players know of A.P.Hill's imminent arrival and the Union commanders attempt to prevent Hill from having an uninterrupted march route to Sharpsburg. Holding the town at game end will give automatic victory to Union.

Union forces assault both flanks of the Confederates. On the Union right, one brigade rolls over two Confederate batteries silenced by the massed Union artillery. Another brigade reaches Sharpsburg, releasing the rest of the Union forces if not driven off on the Confederate turn.

On the Union left, the assault fails as a tiny Confederate brigade together with a battery of guns refuse to budge. We used the casualty markers as disorder markers and the wagons to indicate low on ammo.

A.P.Hill's light division arrives on the scene. He sends half of his division to Sharpsburg and reinforces the Confederate right with the rest.

Division general Wilcox dies leading the assault on Sharpsburg. The Confederates put up a fight and drive back one of the two enemy brigades there.

Alas, one Union brigade stays in Sharpsburg until the Union turn and releases the rest of the Union forces. The Union forces outnumber the Confederates two to one.

A majority of the released troops move to oppose Hill on the Union left.

A.P.Hill and Wilcox's replacement survey the situation.

The empty spot in the center was previously occupied by a large Union brigade. They routed upon miserably failing their rally.

A large Union brigade punches through the Confederate center, isolating the Confederate force into two parts.

A.P.Hill's brigades reach Sharpsburg and not a moment too soon. After repulsing several assaults, the Confederate defenders are getting worn.

Garnett's brigade (in the foreground) prove Jackson wrong by stubbornly not retreating before a greater enemy force.

The battle is now divided in two parts. In Sharpsburg, the Confederates still refuse to give ground, and on the Union right A.P.Hill's forces are pushing back Union brigades but are in danger of being surrounded.

A Union brigade assaults the Confederate batteries, driving them away. The Confederate brigades are successfully assaulting the Union forces on the right but are being surrounded by the much larger force.

The Confederates in Sharpsburg are also badly outnumbered, but well motivated.

All hell breaks loose in Sharpsburg as the 300 remaining men in Archer's brigade first assault and drive away a 1350 man brigade and then a 900 man brigade! Some medals were earned.

On the Union left the Confederates are enveloped...

...with horrific results.

Low on ammunition, disordered and spent, the Confederates continue their heroic resistance in Sharpsburg. The battle is nearly over as twilight sets in.

The Union forces send fresh troops to the Confederate rear in Sharpsburg.

The generals take stock of the situation as the scenario ends.

The overall situation at nighfall.

The Union forces did not win by default as they didn't have an unspent brigade in Sharpsburg at the end, but the Confederate losses were grave and they lost by victory points.

The scenario started very well for the Union. Their advance was so effortless in fact, that concern was raised over the fairness of the scenario. It wasn't difficult to silence the Confederate guns on the Union right and roll them over with infantry. This made reaching Sharpsburg much easier. Upon reaching Sharpsburg the rest of the Union brigades were released, giving the Union double the troops compared to the Confederates. Most of the Union brigades were green though, and were reduced form Fresh to Worn status by the first losses, a big thing in Fire and Fury. The Confederates fought like hell and I haven't seen quite so many 10's rolled before, but in the end the outnumber factor proved too much for the Confederates to handle. They held Sharpsburg in the end and both sides had suffered roughly equal losses, but the Confederate flank had been turned. Lee would have a hard time retreating unless the cautious McClellan would order Burnside to retreat back behind Antietam creek during the night, convinced there's 100 000 more rebels hiding in the bushes. If not, maybe McClellan's wife would really get something to brag about.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Total Battle Miniatures' Narrow River System Review for 6mm

Ok, one more terrain component ready for my collection in time for our Antietam action next weekend. I've lamented a lack of a proper river system on my table since the 90's and now I finally decided the time is ripe to just buy one.

I ended up ordering the narrow river system from Total Battle Miniatures as it looked fine and the price was right. After ordering, the company contacted me and told me they now do a brown version as well as the default black one. I thought it surely would look more realistic and said ok. Having straight black for a river was the only thing I hesitated on this product and thought I'd paint over the black.

The mental image I had in my head of a brown river was something like this:

Which I pretty successfully modeled in my training terrain piece here:

That's what streams and lakes look like here in Finland. Well, when I opened the package I found these:

The color on these pieces is spot on for a rapid stream or river in flood or with soil mixed in the water. Like here:

So, I may not have gotten exactly what I thought I would, but the color is still very good for portraying the kind of river it wants to. BTW, I lifted the pictures of the real rivers from a blog here. Check it out, there's good stuff about modeling rivers there. Anyway, back to the set. The material is made of flexible resin and is very flexible and rubbery like so:

The material seems strong and durable, and I think you have to punish them hard to break or tear them. The sections are 4 centimeters wide, and the water portion is 25 millimeters wide. Perfect for games like Fire & Fury, that is. The water portion of the pieces is glossy and you're not actually supposed to paint them. The gloss has been achieved in the molding without any varnish or the like. It's quite good considering there's no "water products" involved.

I did some experimenting on painting the sections by working on the backside of a section. No paint nor ink would stick on the glossy part, but after roughing it up a bit with sand paper, I could get paint to stick. I painted the section brown with your standard Citadel paints and then tried two water products. Vallejo's Still Water and Woodland Scenics' Water Effects.

Still Water cracks when bent, so it was a bad call. Water Effects however bends quite nicely and I didn't do any damage while bending and twisting the section for a while. In the end I decided to go with the original colour, but I think you can get a nice result with Water Effects, if you don't subject the pieces to too much mechanical strain.

I washed the pieces in soap water, painted the banks and added some flock and shrubs:

The end result is very good for a flexible, modular set, and I'm sure it'll do a fine job at slowing down troops on my field, even if the water is a bit muddy.

An isolated farm overlooks a stream in the north-American wilderness.