Thursday 4 April 2024

Cacti

I make no excuses to my over romanticised, some would say naive, approach to the historical periods that interest me.  A perfect example of this would be my wholly sanitised foray into the Wild West inspired by the many Hollywood celluloid spectacles.  A lasting memory of those films was the tall cacti that seemed to dominate the landscape and so I set about to see if I could find some to add to the terrain around my village.  A rudimentary search of the infoweb unearthed a number of potential finds, particularly if I was prepared to 'print' my own, something I hope to get into one day, but at the moment I seem content with purchasing files that sit neglected on the computer, not that different to the unpainted miniatures in the wardrobe of woe.  

There were some Saguaro like models available in either white metal or plastic, but these were proving to be quite costly and were lacking the stature that I was after until, as luck would have it, I stumbled across the following 'how to' on the Western Role Playing & Miniature Games Resource site. 
 

So as to not be accused of plagiarism, I am happy to admit that I followed this wonderfully clear guide pretty much to the letter, so there is little point replicating it here, but I will share some of my 'work in progress photographs' to reiterate just how straightforward it was. 
I used a combination of 6" and 4" nails with aluminium, armature, modelling wire to form the basic structures.  These were then covered in Sculpey, not a material I had used before, but not unlike DAS modeling clay, which might prove to be an cheaper alternative.  Drawing lines into the clay would convey a sense of the cactus structure, but on reflection I rather rushed this stage, perhaps more modelling would have produced more varied and interesting results?  Once baked and cooled they were fixed to some MDF bases and the surfaces built up and textured accordingly.  I indulged in some Buffalo and Longhorn steer skulls from 'Dixon Miniatures' just to sell the piece a little more. 
With time very much against me, I fired up the trusty airbrush and covered them in a rather lurid green that was not nearly dusty enough.  Fortunately some drybrishing helped to get the project back on track, but something still felt as if it was lacking.  
In a bid to give my cacti some more texture I dabbed dots of PVA glue along the trunk and then sprinkled on some fine green turf that I had.  A final flourish was added with a course, red turf used atop to hint at the ripening fruit. 
With the bases painted to match the rest of the miniatures and the liberal application of some brown shrubs and tufts the build was complete.  Thoroughly enjoyable and with that sense of achievement that comes from a successful scratch build.  Huge thanks to Western Role Playing & Miniature Games Resource for pointing the way.

Monday 25 March 2024

The Village

Just the briefest of posts to showcase the rest of the buildings that were done in readiness for our western adventure using the Shoot N' Skedaddle rules.  All are from 'Sarissa Precision', but not all from the most obvious areas of their collection.  True, the small Adobe houses and the Cantina were certainly from the 'South of the Border' range and very nice they were too.  Quick and easy to put together and painted to match the church.  As with all MDF builds the overly straight edges and joints sometimes spoil the look, but some cheap wood filler worked really well at concealing these whilst also added a pleasing level of texture.


I discovered the destroyed single storey souk building in the North Africa/Colonial section, but just felt that the arches were remisnetct of the architecture form the village that starred in the Magnificent Seven.  By the time it was painted using a similar colour palette to the rest of the buildings it certainly seemed to fit with them.
A chance discovery in the Mediterranean section unearthed this small house.  I simple disposed of the pitched roof, added lashings of wood glue and used reeds instead of vines to create an animal shelter for the villagers.  Whereas the rickety fencing was from the Japan section and catalogued as 'Mountain Village low farm fence'.  They fitted in with the worn down look I was hoping to achieve and seen here in the last picture protecting my 'Warbases' hay stacks.

Looking at back at these photographs, I can see lots of areas that could have been enhanced even further with a bit more time, but with these pieces done, the village was good to go.  As with all my projects what followed can only be described as mission creep and as soon as the photographs are thinned down, I shall share with you where my wild machinations led me next.

Sunday 17 March 2024

The Church


Having decided to create a sleepy, little Mexican village for our gunslingers to fight over, inspired by the wonderful 'Magnificent Seven', I found myself pouring over the virtual pages of 'Sarissa Precision'.  I appreciate that MDF on the tabletop is not for everyone, but I have to confess to rather enjoying the building process and with some liberally applied wood filler and texture pastes, it is possible to minimise the angular look of the kits.  
It would also be fair to say that 'Sarissa Precision' are at the top of their game, clearly looking to push their designs further than most, not settling for the basic structures, but incorporating more etching and clever construction techniques to produce some really top quality models.  The Mexican Church#2  from their South of the Border range is a case in point.  Instantly recognisable from the aforementioned celluloid gem, this was a 'must have' centerpiece for my village, offering cover and a considerable vantage point for those lucky enough to secure the bell tower for their side.
With the texture of the walls done the painting was really straight forward with just base colours and dry brushing.  As with all projects, I could have taken things further, but time was marching on and there was still quite a list of 'things to do' before the scheduled game day.  The base plate was textured and painted to match those of my villagers and bandits and with some tufts of weeds added the first bit of real estate was complete.  


Tuesday 12 March 2024

Villagers

Having assembled my protagonists for the planned game of Shoot N' Skedaddle, I couldn’t help but feel that they were very much akin to the gang of marauding Banditos from the celluloid gem that is 'The Magnificent Seven'.  

This connection was to open of a rabbit hole of pure boyhood joy and self expression as I set out to recreate the ill fated village for the table top.  Whilst I waited for a sizable order of MDF from the ever reliable ‘Sarissa Precision’, I toyed with the idea of having some non combatants to add a touch of local colour to the setting.  

I had an idea that they could amble around and generally get in the way of what was going to be a three way gun battle.  As luck would have it, 'Wargames Foundry' do a couple of rather nice packs of Mexican Villagers and Peons.  A bit like the 'Artizan Designs' Banditos these are just great fun to paint.  Even after all this time there is very little flash and the detailing is not over complicated.  Having opted for a very straightforward palette they were based in grey primer and then I just made a couple of passes with the airbrush lightening the tone each time.  With the skin colour added and few details and they were done! 

As you will see in the close up shots, I managed to overdo the varnish again, but it isn’t too noticeable at arm’s length.  All that I needed to do now was build their village!


Sunday 25 February 2024

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I have been doing some tidying up on my ailing laptop as it has developed a rather worrying chesty wheeze and I concerned that I may need to upgrade.  That being the case, I felt it prudent to 'back up' the files and what not including a vast amount of photographs of toy soldiers in various states of readiness.  Some of the images that I came across were as a result of a wonderful little distraction back in the summer of 2021 and so I thought I would take the opportunity to share them here.
I try to catch up with a couple of blogging chums every year and at this particular visit it was suggested that we try something a bit different in the shape of a Cowboy skirmish game called Shoot N' Skedaddle from Turnstyle Games.  This is a 'rules lite' game that sees the combatants field a posse or gang of Cowboys from either Lawmen or Outlaw factions with Neutrals being available to either side.  
Having decided that I was going to field a gang of Mexican bandits the wonderful 'Artizan Designs' came to my rescue with their characterful Banditos, but with them came Ill Buono, Ill Brutto and Ill Cattivo.  Simply a joy to paint all was going well until the varnishing stage, where a distinct lack of attention on my behalf saw me overdo the matt spray and left some rather nasty pooling.  Although disappointing, it wasn't terminal and actually at arm's length barely noticeable.  To round out the gang, I re-based a With the a couple of miniatures that I already had kicking around and so phase one was complete!   



Saturday 10 February 2024

Exploding Puppies!

 

I am perfectly aware of my many limitations as a war gamer. The most crippling of which is a lack of focus on any given project for any length of time.   To be clear these projects are never totally discarded, but rather hang in suspended animation awaiting their time to shine once again.  So to complete the basic units required for a 1000 point Bolt Action Soviet Army was, by my standards, going to quite an achievement. I had deliberately left aside the more esoteric units as something to look forward to, but with the return to work hobby time evaporated, that’s not to say that it disappeared altogether and there would be small steps forward, often snatched over a weekend, but the momentum built up through the longer breaks was inevitably going to stall.  
Returning to the esoteric, the inclusion of the dog units was always going to be a controversial choice here at ‘Awdry Towers’.  The Saintly Mrs. Awdry will not bat an eye as the massed ranks of my toy soldiers are massacred wholesale following another tactical blunder by yours truly, but suggest that an animal might be injured, even one made of white metal, and oh my goodness me - the horror!
 So when we discussed the fate of these poor mutts, that had explosive charges strapped to their backs and then encouraged to go and lie under the advancing tanks, it was clear that I needed to present the grim reality in a more palatable way.  No longer would they be referred to as Anti Tank Teams, but instead good doggies being taken for a walk by their caring handlers!  
All of this nonsense aside, it would appear that there is some discrepancy as to the effectiveness of such tactics, not the sanitising of history to appease your wife you understand, but stories abound of dogs so terrified by the metal behemoths that they run back to their own lines, much to the chagrin of Uncle Ivan.  I am led to believe that any stray dog seen on the streets of Mother Russia was exterminated by the German invaders. Still there was something so absurd about all of this that made them a must have inclusion to my force. 
As hinted at earlier, tactics are not my strong point, so anything that throws a certain semblance of chance into the proceedings is most definitely up my street so I picked up the ‘Warlord Games’ pack and planned to paint them as they were, but give them the ‘wintery’ treatment to tie in with the rest of my force.  Unfortunately the pack only had one handler wearing a Telogreika, but as I wanted to add additional units to this team I was going to need more winter clad warriors to swell the ranks.  Fortunately I fell upon on a series of posts on the wonderful, Dramatic Katastases blog.
This was a veritable gold mine of ideas, and you can expect to see more of them shamefully plundered here in due course, but the dog unit in particular gave me food for thought - I could make my own!  A couple of snow suited veterans that had been abandoned, as I was looking to make a unit with SMGs and they had rifles, were conscripted to the cause. The bits box also yielded some scraps that I thought would work well for me and as luck would have it, a pack Warlord Games Ancient Britons Mastiffs!*
*Everyone has these lying around, right?
The build itself was relatively straightforward and I am genuinely thrilled with the results, although already thinking about the possibility of using markers to show that the dogs had been deployed.  With regards to painting, I simply followed the same steps that I used with earlier units, finished off with a dusting of ‘snow’.  For the time being this is where I am going to leave my Soviet forces.  By my reckoning, I have enough options to field a competitive 1000 point force, although there are still some pieces I could call upon, including the ubiquitous T34 waiting in the wings.  As to what pops up next here at '28mm Victorian Warfare' is anyone's guess.  A quick check revealed 54 draft posts, the earliest dating back to 2013, in various states of completion and detailing an inordinate array of periods and projects.  That said, I am enjoying getting back to writing and catching up with friends so determined to keep going for a little while longer. 

Saturday 3 February 2024

28mm BM-13 Katyusha rocket launcher

The BM-13 Katyusha rocket launcher, also known as 'Stalin's Organ', was a fearsome and iconic weapon used by the Soviet Union during World War II.  It was a truly formidable weapon that left a lasting impact on the battlefield. The sudden, overwhelming nature of its barrages, creating chaos, destruction and psychological distress among enemy forces must have been terrifying.  

This, then, is one of those units that I would consider 'uniquely' Soviet and a 'must have' for the collection.  There were several options available, but in the end, I kept with 'Warlord Games' in the thought that it would be a relatively easy build as compared to perhaps a 'Rubicon Models' kit, but when I unpacked the box, I was left with this... 

I have to confess, I was initially put off by the sheer number of parts some of which were cast in soft metal whilst the molded, resin elements had some warping that would need addressing.  Slowly and with some considerable filing and filling, the finished model emerged!
Now knowing that I could work with the dark green undercoat spray, the startling appearance of the freshly primed model didn't hold the same terrors as before.  In fact working with primarily a dry brush the initial painting took less time than the actual construction.  By far the most complicated area was trying to paint the rockets themselves given that I had glued them in place before priming.  Weathered and detailed, I am pleased with the final outcome, although I remain nervous at the fragility of certain elements like the support legs at the rear. 
The model comes with a couple of crew members, one of which received a quick head swap from the plastic sprue and angled as if following the trajectory of his screaming rockets.  Their bases given that all important 'wintery' treatment to tie them into the rest of the unit and with that another, devastating addition was added to the collection.

Saturday 27 January 2024

28mm Soviet Army Zis 3 Divisional Gun

I have always enjoyed building and painting artillery whether it be the Russian guns at Balaclava, the mighty siege cannons pressed into the service of my Indian mutineers or a more modern iteration in the form of the fearsome '88

There is something about a finely crafted and historically accurate model that just looks wonderful on the tabletop.  One such gem is the Warlord Games 28mm Zis-3 Divisional Gun. This miniature artillery piece is a testament to the meticulous attention to detail and commitment to historical accuracy that Warlord Games is renowned for.  
Part of the challenge is putting the thing together and I try to take a before and after shot just for my own reference and to document the process that I underwent.  It also helps to remind the 'Saintly Mrs. Awdry' that I don't just spray paint on models, those that I actually get round to painting that is.  
That said the photograph above has obviously just been sprayed using a previously long forgotten can  Army Painter Angel Green primer; a remnant of a jungle terrain build.  I did have a mild panic that it was too dark, spending far too long agonising over how accurate my palette selection was.  Ultimately I reminded myself that this was my toy and I could paint it any colour I liked and immediately set about weathering it and lightening certain areas. 
The Zis-3 Divisional Gun, a product of Soviet engineering during World War II, played a crucial role on the Eastern Front. Its versatility, power, and reliability made it a staple in the Red Army's arsenal.  My 'wintery' Soviet forces now have some significant stopping power in the armoury! 
The crew of three, bolstered here with the addition of a forward observer from the Soviet HQ pack, were all given the same treatment as the rest of the force with a suitably wintery base.  I found that a coat of heavily watered down PVA glue on the hems of the jackets persuaded the snow to adhere, adding to the illusion that they were battling the elements and not just the enemy.  
I am obviously delighted to have completed another support unit and have taken the opportunity to photograph the recent additions together.  I have a couple of more 'uniquely' Soviet support units to come so hopefully more updates in the near future.  



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