Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Joy of Six 2019 - Wargames Show

Last weekend I took my eldest son, James 10, with me to the Joy of Six wargames show in Sheffield. The show is put on, and organised, by Peter Berry and Baccus miniatures. Its all about 6mm wargaming and is growing and getting more brilliant every year. Its been held annually for the last 5 or so years at Sheffield Hallam university and this was our second visit. This is very much a personal post about me and my son gaming together.

I live over on the other side of the Pennines about 90 minutes drive away so after we'd dropped the Mrs and number 2 son off at the Meadowhall we were soon at the show. A £3 entry fee and a strip of raffle tickets later and we were in just after 10:30.

The show was bigger this year and there were a number of fantastic demonstration and participation tables set up just as we came in. We had a very quick look around. Hexon seems to be in this year. I have a gross metric ton of Hexon sat around so it was great to see all the different uses it was put to.

The first game James got interested in was a refight of the battle of the Little Big Horn being put on by Wargames Collection Calculator. We got chatting to several of the ladies there who helped explain the background and before long James was taking on the role of Custer. The game was brilliantly staged and set up across 4 battle boards. Other players gamed as Reno and Benteen, whilst the 4th board represented the Sioux village. 
Figures are by Baccus with some of the Indians by Irregular. Hexon boards.
James was outnumbered by the Sioux who tried to run him down. However with great determination and a fair bit of luck (he managed to go first quite a lot) Custer was soon threatening to reach the Sioux village. The Sioux caught him up and launched several attacks attempting to overlap his flanks. But the US cavalry proved pretty resilient and either pushed the Sioux back or routed them. Heedless of the enemy behind him James pushed Custer's men forward and soon they were crossing the stream into the Sioux village.
 The game was quick and easy to play and is available free at Collection Calculator here
A desperate battle began with Indian braves attacking the US soldiers in the river. Some were pushed back but Custer quickly reinforced the position. Meanwhile on another board Reno had defeated the Sioux and joined Custer in the village! Sitting Bull found his position flanked and with great elan James commanding Reno defeated Sitting Bull and drove him from the table. The battle was won!

James was roundly congratulated by his very gracious opponents and Peter Riley the game designer who was most impressed, particularly as the game was designed to be next to impossible for the US cavalry to win. James was over the moon and just as delighted to get a medal. 
We checked out another couple of games, including a D-Day game centring on the defence of Pegasus bridge and then had lunch.
After lunch we checked out the other hall and saw a number of impressive games including a fantastic battle of Poltava. We decided though to have a go at chariot racing which turned out to be tremendous fun as we crashed and banged along the track avoiding lions, Cleopatra's asp and marching legions.
Then came the game I'd been looking forward to for weeks, Daniel Hodgson and Reveille's Battle of Hoth. This is a beautiful game run by two great guys who looked after my son and got him really involved in the defence of Echo base.
The miniatures are a mix of Micro machines and Airfix models from the Echo Base and Battle of Hoth dioramas. I have 3 sets of the Hoth and 1 of Echo base as well as all the hexon tiles and trenches. I've been waiting for the kids to get a bit older and for them to get into wargaming before I put it all together and paint it with them. There was therefore a lot riding on this game!
James really enjoyed the game and helped successfully defend Echo base. He was delighted. We thanked Daniel and moved on. After a very quick walk around, buying more buildings from brigade models all that remained was to attend the raffle.

There were a great selection of prizes on offer and enormous generosity from many of the gamers present two of whom donated winning tickets to James enabling him to scoop a couple of pictures to hang on his wall. Thank you to Peter, the traders and some marvellous gamers for making his and my day very special. I think there is another wargamer in the family now!

Happy Gaming

Charles the Modeller

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Not So Lonesome Pine

I have been mentioning for a while that I've been planning a Battle of the Bulge game. This month those plans kicked into action in a big way. The game has started and there will be a AAR as soon as we're finished. However a huge part of the set up were trees. 

I have a large selection, as do others in the group, of K&M trees. However few of these are pine trees and none are dusted with snow. I needed a lot of them, they needed to look wintery and I didn't want to spend a fortune. 

I was looking around for alternative options when Roly the Painter sent me a link to the guys at Little Wars TV. This group of American gamers have a fantastic youtube channel with a huge array of content covering a wide range of periods. They've produced a short video on how to make pine trees from pipe cleaners.

The methodology I'm expanding on is theirs, with some additional input from me on what I've learnt from making nearly 700 of them. I'm not adding much to the concept - its all down to them really - this is just some lessons learnt.

Step 1: Bumpy Pipe Cleaners

In the UK these are referred to as bumpy pipe cleaners and you can get about 10 or 12 for around a £1. They are about 30cms, or 12" long, and each one can make 8 small pine trees. I picked up 10 packs for £11 giving me a theoretical 960 trees.

Step 2: Basing
The Little Wars guys based their trees on card in large clumps. However with the number I was going to do this would create an enormous storage problem if I spread the trees out. I decided instead to base each tree individually. This allows me flexibility to change a table layout, move trees out of the way to place minis/ move figures through the trees and minimised the storage required.
I used small value copper coins from wherever I could get hold of them, raiding the shrapnel we brought back from all our holidays. I covered each coin with PVA and added sand.

Step 3: Snipping
I just used a pair of scissors and snipped the pipe cleaners. I tidied up the odd tree, shaping it into a sharper point, but mostly I just snipped where felt right. I tend to prefer smaller trees, about 2cm to 4cm so the middle section of some bumps got discarded. I did a lot of this in front of the telly as it doesn't require much concentration.
Step 4: Hot Glue
I secured the trees to the bases using hot glue. A decent blob on the coin is all that's required. Getting the wire stuck in the blob is key and I found then smoothing out the chenille helped fluff the tree, particularly when squashed in the pack and that pushing the lower strands into the hot glue really helped secure the tree. I had a number fail to hold, 2 - 3% maybe, but I just picked off the glue blob, cleaned up the tree and had another go.
On the bigger coins I put one large tree and generally a very small tree. This helps break symmetry on the battlefield.

Step 5: Spraying
I used a dark green spray can to spray the trees. Initially I used Army Painter, Angel Green, but I was never able to finish a can due to the nozzle getting blocked. I tried very hard but went through 3 cans and did everything your supposed to do but I just couldn't get between half and a third out. I then picked up a cheaper can from a nearby car accessory shop. They worked like a charm, but were slightly less dark and the paint tended to leech very slightly into the white dry brush paint.
Spraying is crucial as the pipe cleaner bristles harden when coated with the spray - essential for the dry brushing. I broke the trees up into batches and sprayed from 4 angles. I found it was best to give the trees 2 coats to really stiffen them up.
Roly the Painter has suggested spraying the trees black rather than dark green. I haven't tried that but he really knows his stuff so its something to consider.

Step 6: Drybrushing
I applied a good heavy dry brush of white paint. It ate lots of paint but I had a can of white exterior stone paint lying around and found that was really good. It takes between 1 and 2 minutes per tree, so stick on some music and lose yourself. Break the trees up into batches. I set myself a daily goal for a few weeks and did it in 30 minute chunks. 

Step 7: Artistic Touches
I haven't got around to it yet but lichen, dead grass etc, would definitely help liven the bases up.

Alternate Colours
I haven't tried it but dry brushing in lighter greens should give a pretty good summer conifer.

Overall I think the trees cost me about £40 - £10 for the pipe cleaners, £10 for the coins and about £20 for the spray cans. I've based about 700 trees on 600 bases so it works out reasonably at less than 7p a base. Each one probably took me about 5 minutes in total to make so not so bad on an individual basis. They seem pretty robust and now I have the trees for the Bulge and winter battles hopefully enough for a lifetime, however, I find myself repeating you can never have enough trees, so maybe I'll do more.

Big thanks to the guys at Little Wars TV for coming up with this, and to Roly the Painter for finding it and looking at me with his big doleful eyes and suggesting I make them.

Happy Gaming!

Charles the Modeller

Battle of Scarif - All Finished

So in my last post I said my next blogpost would be on building the citadel tower. Well I am so far behind in posting updates on my blog tha...