Saturday 29 February 2020

Getting properly excited!

Just a very short post this morning as I have so much to do, but couldn't resist sharing this.  The South London Warlords have released the floor plan for 'Salute 2020' and so we can show you where to find us!  This is hugely exciting and just a little bit terrifying as what started as a throw away suggesting is now an expectation.  Our official blurb reads...

Beechwood Tabletop Gaming Club
The Battle for Schloss Itter
In late WW2, an unlikely alliance of Wehrmacht soldiers, American G.I.s and French Prisoners of War defend an Austrian castle from SS Troops.

Saturday 18th April 2020 is fast approaching and James has been turning his attention, and considerable talents, to designing and making a steel frame for the boards so that they can be transported in the back of his van!  Meanwhile, I have all but completed two boards and James has prepped the third for me to start next week.  This has taken slightly longer than originally envisaged as every time I think I have finished, I remember something else we said that we would do.  This week it has been cutting back into one of the 'finished' boards to establish the last resting place of James' Storch.
So as I sign off this morning it is back to the painting desk that has no less than three started elements on the go and with no rugby to distract me this weekend, I am hoping to push these on a little.   More to follow shortly, I hope! 

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Wednesday 26 February 2020

Bang goes the neighbourhood!

I have finally completed the last of the artillery pieces for the game, the 2cm Flak 30 cannon, reportedly seen been emplaced in the tree line barely 800 yards, northwest of the castle, alongside the '88.  This has proved to be the most troublesome piece to finish, simply because of my lack of knowledge in the period and my inability to get past an initial idea.  You see, my limited research only seemed to throw up the quad variant, which I duly picked up from 'Rubicon Models', but in my head all I could see was the single barrelled version that was used to terrifying effect in the film, 'Saving Private Ryan'; my issue was that no one seemed to be producing such a weapon, or at least one mounted on its wheels.
Scene from 'Saving Private Ryan'.
Being a stubborn sort of chap, I eventually stumbled upon one such gun, but for the life of me, I can't remember where?  I thought it might have been 'Great Escape Games', but having just looked on their website, it no longer seems to be listed.  Provenance aside, the piece was going to be problematic insomuch as it came in vast number of pieces and all made from very soft metal, that saw the barrels and other elements twisted horribly out of shape.
My plan now was to combine the plastic and metal kits together utilising the various pieces to build one serviceable gun, the additional chassis would be used to build an ammunition trailer, but it soon became apparent that the scale discrepancy between to the two kits was going to make such a build difficult and so the project stalled, until I stumbled across the image below.
With the inclusion of a tarpaulin and a camouflage net, I could potentially hide all the difficult castings and so set about the piece with renewed enthusiasm.  The problem was that the metal kit didn't have any assembly instructions and so I was using the 'Rubicon Models' kit as a guide and know that I made a couple of bodged decisions along the way.  That said it started to come together and having decided on what size of 'Warbases' MDF disc to use, I rooted around the bits box to put together a small scenic base.
Having allowed the PVA soaked tissue paper, used for the tarpaulin, to dry, I was starting to feel pretty pleased with myself and duly primed the gun, working on the base to tie in with the other artillery pieces.  Unfortunately my clumsiness struck again when I managed to dislodge the replacement plastic barrel I had used.  On reflection, I was pushing my luck with this, applying the glue to only the smallest point of contact.  Not deterred, I drilled out the remnants of the existing metal barrel, allowing for a much more sung fit for the second plastic barrel, thinking all the time that it was a good job that I had four to work with!    
With the painting complete, it was time to create a camouflage net and decided on some gauze bandage liberally soaked with a combination of sepia and green inks.  This needed some dry brushing once it had dried and then it was just a case of threading in some lichen pieces, before gluing to the lower part of the carriage.  
For all its difficulty in assembly, I have to say that I am delighted with the finally outcome, as it started to match the source photograph that inspired it; I just need to remember to be careful with that barrel when handling it! 

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Saturday 22 February 2020

Bringing home the bacon.

Well I'm not sure where the half term break has gone?  It has been lovely to spend time with the Saintly Mrs. Awdry, but here I am contemplating the return to work and with very little to show for it, hobby wise.  As I rather suspected the prospect of getting to grips with fifty SS Troops was too much for this particular butterfly brained hobbyist and although five have been completed, with another five underway, I went in search of an easy win.
I have always enjoyed populating my tables with additional livestock and have been wracking my brains as to what might have been roaming around the Austrian forests in the 1940s?  I am assuming the usual fare of game would be plentiful such as pheasants, rabbits and deer*, but what else?   Wild Boar!  Somewhere, in the depths of my addled brain, was the flicker of a memory that had wild boar rooting around the Black Forest and so it was that the every reliable 'Warbases' received an order for a couple of packs along with some small pill shaped bases.  
 *Although what deer would be most common?
Basing some up with their piglets** these simple, but well cast, beasties will be roaming the areas below the castle.  They may yet get their own 'Chance Card', which will play in a similar fashion to those of Congo, by 'Studio Tomahawk', insomuch that if drawn then a combat action will have to be resolved before the unit can progress.  I suppose if successful then they might claim extra rations for their troop?
**Surely not boarlets?
So some more fluff for the table, but time is ticking and we still have a long way to go!  As I write this there is only 56 more days to 'Salute 2020'!

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Wednesday 19 February 2020

There's something in the woodshed!

Whilst wanting to keep a visible presence on the infoweb, and in a bid to keep the momentum going with the Schloss Itter build, I was looking around for a suitable post as proof of life.  I was conscious that I didn't want to overplay the W.I.P. card as although terrain building is taking the majority of my 'Castle Time' to have a similar post so shortly after the last, might diminish the impact.

Fortunately James has, once again, has come to my rescue.  His visits during the week, bring much needed inspiration and a have presented us with a good opportunity for a chat and some planning time.  One of the greatest joys of working with James is that he seemingly doesn't recognise any barrier to completing a task as a problem, simply a challenge that hasn't yet been solved.  This is such a positive outlook on life and of genuine inspiration to me. 
As we start to see the boards move from fields of colourless foam to recognisable terrain features we are keen to add as much depth as possible.  Any available space is now considered fair game and one such area, located below the bridge, was screaming out for some attention.  I had inadvertently suggested some form of deserted lumber camp might be suitable, a pile of logs, signs of industry, that sort of thing.  In no time at all, James had thrown together some design and ideas based on photographic evidence and presented me with another stunning creation.
The shack, almost identical to the source material, came based on an large MDF disc that allows us to drop it onto similarly placed disks in the terrain.  This means that it sits flush with the ground and allows a modicum of versatility in our set up.  James had latched on to the idea that this was a working lumber camp and his delightful piece came with a fearsome looking saw bench and piles of recently sawn timber - absolutely superb!  
In many ways the piece required very little in the way of painting, but I just couldn't help myself.  Trying to match the colours and textures of the source material, I was looking to create a worn feel, complete with ivy and a log pile.  As for the saw bench, we had joked about the idea of it having done some serious damage and so the remnants of an unfortunate wretch lie in the sawdust and gore.  
This proved to be yet another wonderful diversion at a time when diversions are the last thing I need!  That said, the joy of the project has been its ability to constantly surprise, whether that be by generosity of others or simply in stretching our own imaginations and creative abilities.  As I write this, I do have the small matter of fifty SS troops to complete and so it is back to the paint table for me, at least until the next diversion comes along! 

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Monday 3 February 2020

A work in progress#2

It's been a while since we shared any discernible progress of the game boards.  In November we left you with the tantalising prospect of the four assembled boards with the castle looming above a mass of expanded foam filler.  In the run up to Christmas, James had worked tirelessly to get as much of the drawing and cutting done as he was due to start his new job, at a different school, in January.  This was going to present us with no end of logistical issues, not least to mention depriving me of the opportunity to talk hobby related ideas all day!
We met up briefly for a day in the Christmas holidays, a final opportunity for James to saw, spray and sand, before handing over his keys.  As promised, he had left me with four serviceable boards, three seen standing on their ends above, a castle that was now free standing and the promise that he was at the end of the phone if there was anything else I needed. 

I had, rather like the much maligned ostrich, buried my head in the sand when it came to the boards.  All the time James was cutting the castle, there didn't seem any need to worry.  I would tinker around with some miniatures, perhaps a bit of card design, but then as I stood alone in front of the incomplete boards the realisation of what needed to be undertaken finally sunk in!  Fortunately, my boarding duties have been rescheduled to allow a good period of free time on Monday and Tuesday evenings, now dubbed, 'Castle Time'.  This has proved to be a godsend and an ideal opportunity to really get to grips with the Herculean task that lies ahead of us.  
Having established the contours of one board, the application of some simple colour lifted my spirits to the point where I felt confident enough to offer up the second board.  Sketching out the design it was just a matter of hacking the geographical features into the foam before using a combination of sculptamold, tile grout and builders' caulk to complete the effect.
Although many of the techniques that have been employed are familiar to me, I am now operating at a scale that is completely outside my comfort zone; for instance I have now made fifty conifer trees to date!  My hobby progress is usually painstakingly slow, not least because of my butterfly like approach to focussing on any given task for any discernible period of time, yet, stick at it, I have and we are now finally starting to see some measurable progress.  

The level of finish is meeting our expectations, but there is still plenty more that needs to be done.  James has been able to visit on a regular basis and although this has been great to boost morale, we do seem to find ourselves becoming distracted by more and more flights of fancy.  That said, these are often the pieces we most enjoy and hope that they will add a sense of fun to the project.

We hope that you will be able to see some real progress, but of course we are mindful that there are another two boards to go before we can say it is finished.  January has come and gone, but even with our enforced separation James and I have managed to keep the project going, not least because it keeps stretching us creatively and throwing up no end of wonderful surprises.  After our collaboration with Dave Stone of 'Wargames Terrain Workshop', James had coined the phrase, 'the Castle the internet built' and this continues to be the case.  As I write this I have just seen a picture of an amazing piece of artwork that is heading our way; thank you Nick of 'Moiterei's Bunte Welt', it looks amazing!  We also look forward to sharing with you a tangible connection to the past that has galvanised our determination to see the project through to its completion, but more of that another day.

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