Friday, September 17, 2021

6mm Parachutes


Today, the 17th September, is the 77th anniversary of the start of Operation Market Garden and the gamble to capture and hold a bridge across the Rhine at Arnhem. The US 82nd and 101st airborne divisions as well as the British 6th Airborne Division and a Polish brigade landed by parachute and glider. So with that in mind I thought I would run through how to make some parachutes for a 6mm tabletop.

Once again I have Roland Grime to thank for this. He suggested I come up with parachutes when I was planning the 2nd lift game. He and I batted some ideas about and without him this would not have been possible.

To start with I got hold of some 10mm diameter polystyrene balls. Check the product out before you buy as you want them to be smooth with no air gaps and for them not to be made from smaller polystyrene pieces glued together. The ones I got very helpfully had a seam running round them which made cutting with an exacto knife pretty straightforward, although you should anticipate some failures at this stage.



To aid the process I laid out a line of up turned drawing pins and gently pushed the hemispheres onto the spikes. I then liberally coated them with PVA. This coat once dry hardens the shell of the parachute.

The next step is to take a blunt knife or other implement and gently scribe lines down the sides of the parachute from near the middle. The PVA prevents the scribe from tearing the polystyrene and these lines simulate the panels stitched in the parachute fabric. Once you have scribed all around the parachute take a retractable ball point pen. Gently press the retracted tip into the centre of the chute and then push the pen in. This creates a hole in the centre and an outer ring. It also helps flatten the chute and makes a more realistic inflated shape.


The chute is now ready to be painted. Dependent on the drop and era the chutes will be different colours. I found a pale bone and necrotic green worked well with a soft tone ink wash. I then added a small number of white, blue, red and green chutes representing the chutes on canisters. Each colour denoted a particular type of content in the canister and this changed by drop in WW2. I found just using the appropriate ink was sufficient.


To base them for the game I used 30mm square MDF bases and clear fishing line. I drew a diagonal line across the square and drilled small holes about 1cm apart. I cut the fishing line at set lengths each about 1cm taller than the first. One end of each line was carefully inserted into the polystyrene of the underside of the chute and the other end glued into a hole in the MDF. The fishing line has a natural curve and by placing them in ascending height turned with the bend in the same direction you can achieve a curve that looks (to me anyway) like a stick of paras has just left the aircraft.


And there you are. In no time at all you can cover your table with parachutes.







Keep those dice rolling!

Charles the Modeller

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Battle for Arnhem Bridge AAR video


About a week ago I spent a brilliant two days gaming with Dan Hodgson and David Wasilewski in Dan Hodgson’s fantastic and very impressive War Room. We filmed a playtest of a scenario I had written around the Battle for Arnhem Bridge. I have edited the footage for the 8 turns comprising the events of the 17th September 1944 and posted it onto YouTube.

I was hoping to attend a 3 day gaming and historical tour at Arnhem in September but unfortunately this has been postponed due to the various COVID travel restrictions. This was one of the games I was hoping to run and so this was a dress rehearsal.

The game played well but it soon became clear I hadn’t provided the British player with sufficient troops. I have made some other minor tweaks and hopefully next year I’ll be able to take another crack at it with some Arnhem enthusiasts.

Keep the dice rolling!

Charles the Modeller

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Virtual Joy of Six

 

This Sunday was going to be the Joy of Six, the annual 6mm focussed wargames show held every year in Sheffield by Peter Berry of Baccus miniatures. Unfortunately it succumbed to COVID restrictions and like many other shows had to be cancelled. However Peter is running a virtual event this Sunday and I have been lucky enough to be offered a spot. Head over to www.baccus6mm.com for more information and joining instructions.

I will be showcasing my Arnhem and Brécourt Manor boards and might even discuss my plans for the Korean board as well. I have created a short video to help promote the event which you can find on YouTube 

I hope to chat to as many people as possible so please drop in if you are around.

Keep rolling those dice

Charles the Modeller

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Imjin River Build - sculpting the hills

I am continuing to make excellent progress with my Imjin river board build, looking to recreate the famous battle fought between the Gloucestershire regiment and Chinese forces during the Korean War in April 1951. In the earlier posts I covered the background on the build and the adding of the layers and layers of contours. This post will cover the sculpting of the hills and the adding of the board edges.

To create the main base for my boards I decided to use sculptamold. It’s a mix of plaster of Paris and paper fibres. It’s light and dries to form a solid, fairly tough layer. I used the best part of two 3lb bags for the model and quite enjoyed the process.

I decided to apply the plaster in several phases. I had spent a lot of time and effort ensuring I had accurate contours so it was crucial that when the plaster was laid it moulded to the contours rather than disguising or hiding them. So my first layer really just filled gaps in the layers of foam board. The slopes were not fully defined and I could see red contour lines everywhere!


Funnily enough it was easier to apply the plaster on the hillier areas. I could use the contours to guide my scraper and it was easy to see when too much had been applied. The flatter areas though didn’t offer much in the way of guidance and required more free styling. 

Sculptamold starts to harden and dry out fairly quickly, usually within 10 minutes of mixing. I found I could usually mix and apply a single handful before it became unworkable. I was therefore working with quite small amounts. I used a small decorating scraper to initially apply the the mix. I then simply wetted fingers and got stuck in smoothing the mixture by hand. A bit messy but somehow very satisfying!

It took about 3 days of work - about 4 or 5 hours a day - to cover all 3 boards. It then took another week for the plaster to properly dry out. 


Applying the top layer was more of the same but with more working of the plaster using my fingers. Often the key was letting the plaster harden very slightly before using fingertips to mould it to the contours. Again another week was required for it to fully dry.

The last element to the base boards was fitting the edges to give a strong sharp edge and to protect the foam board underneath. I used 3mm plywood strips that I ordered online cut into 100mm and 180mm pieces 1220mm long. This process proved trickier than I would have liked. Luke APS from Geekgaming has a video on youtube which shows much better than I could how to build a board like this.

I used a laminate cutting blade on my jigsaw and covered the plywood with 100mm wide masking tape to reduce splintering and jagging. However I needed to ensure the edge pieces were attached vertically and neatly mirrored the contours - particularly where the edge was adjacent to the next board. The is not easy with undulating, steeply sloped hillsides where the slope changes direction all the time. I found that I could use a sander to ensure my foam board was not overlapping the edges of the board. This saved a lot of time messing about trying to trim it.

It also turned out that two of my boards have warped slightly. Probably not more than 3mm but annoying all the same. I am not sure if the warp is because the wooden battens I used were warped when I bought them of if the contouring process introduced them. I can adjust to hide it but it’s frustrating all the same.

The plywood was butted up against the board and a pencil used to trace the line of my contours. I cut it out with a jigsaw. Corners were glued together and I tried predrilling for nails but I didn’t really like the fiddling about doing it. I think the plywood needed to be just a bit thicker for nails to be workable.

Where two board edges met I marked and cut the higher of the two edges first. I then used that as a template on the next edge before repeating the contour marking. This gave me two lines on the lower edge. I cut between them with the jigsaw so that even they supported the contouring.

Once screwed on I butted the boards together to see where there were gaps. I then used coffee stirrers as wedges to push the sides together and the used expanding foam to hold them in place leaving minimal gaps. Once dry I removed the wedges and sanded down the foam. I used a Dremel sander and shaped the edges to match my contours. This worked really well as I was easily able to add slopes and angles to the edge boards and make sure it matched the contours. 

Then I applied a thin covering of sculptamold and blended my edges into the rest of the board. Wood filler covered my screws and joins. A day later this was all dry and I sanded everything down and checked the boards fitted together nicely.



Overall I am really pleased with the way things have worked out. I would definitely use this method of constructing again but I would look to use thicker edge boards. Now its onto putting down my base layers of flock.

Keep the dice rolling!

Charles the Modeller


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Imjin Contoured Board, lots and lots of contours

 
Work is progressing well on my Imjin board with all the contours laid down. I thought I would share my method and some of the things I’ve learnt in case anybody else is crazy enough to try something similar.

The battle at Imjin was a battle for control of key terrain. The section defended by the 29th Brigade set astride a key route to Seoul. The river crossing and the hills beyond it determined how the battle would be fought. I sought to recreate the terrain as closely as possible because I want the refight to pose real challenges to both sides. With the contours finished I can already see why the Glosters fought on hill 235 and not others and why getting relief forces through was such a challenge. Hopefully this accurate terrain will influence our battle.

The starting point was finding a map. Unusually I was really well served. I found online a 1:50000 map drawn up by the US in 1950, based on wartime Japanese surveys and maps, updated with aerial information. This is a detailed map, accurate and also as a real bonus is contemporaneous.

I quickly figured out I could fit this section of the battle on a 6 x 4 board but that the other elements of the battle involving the Ulsters, Northumbrians and Belgians would have to wait. I do have delusions of building that as well but it would be another epic build even bigger than this one, so I am not holding my breath. The ground scale works neatly at 25mm, or 1 inch, to 100m. This worked out brilliantly as the contours are mostly in 20m increments. Using 5mm foam board gives me a consistent ground and height scale!

The challenge is that there are lots and lots of hills and contours. Challenging but nowhere near impossible. 

I captured an image of the section of map and imported it into some free image software. I overlayed  a grid so that each square represented 100m by 100m and took snapshots to enable me to work on individual sections of the board.

I marked out 1km lines on the edge of the board so I could more easily figure out positioning.



I then created a grid stencil using some thin plastic strips in a 10 by 10 square, 25cm by 25 cm. Using pins to hold it in place I could now transpose the contour lines onto my foam board. Working this way, square by square meant that I could more easily transpose the lines and improved the accuracy of what I was doing because I was only ever working on 1 inch by 1 inch squares.

I realised early on that the best way to work was to start at the top of a hill and progress downwards. This approach had a number of benefits,

  • It’s quick and easy to cut out several layers, so initially you make quick progress
  • Use each layer as a template to draw on the next layer to aid drawing the next contour 
  • It’s easier to spot errors either with the current layer or the previous one and simpler to correct them
I used 3 different coloured pens, 1 to mark the current contour layer, another to mark the previous contour line and a 3rd for when I inevitably had to correct a mistake. Three colours let’s you see straight off what is what.

When you do spot an error, and you will, stop. Did you make the mistake on the last layer or did you make it just now because it’s not a mistake and you’ve just got confused. Take some time and verify.

Pins held everything in place, marking key points and places.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. I need to keep repeating this to myself because I can fuss over things being 3mm out.

Don’t glue things down straight away. I went back and added a thin layer so my river could be recessed.

Work in small sections initially until you get used to it. I started with 25cm by 25cm pieces, even when they joined together, before I ended working with A1 sheets.

Use different colour foam board if you are mixing different thicknesses. It’s a real pain remarking and cutting out a piece you’ve already done! Confusingly the map uses dotted lines for 5m and 10m contours in places. So always check the map and key before starting out!

Order more foam board, then order some more. Don’t bother trying to keep pieces and fitting multiple layers onto a sheet. It’s just not worth the effort. Just keep a small pile of offcuts and reach for the next one.

Foam board dulls knife blades! Change blades regularly. It’s self defeating to keep a blade that is dragging and tearing.

Write the contour height on every piece, often in several places. This helps keep track of which layer you are on - important when you have more than 20 layers! I almost forgot the 40m contour on the last board because the whole thing was above 40m and therefore didn’t need cutting. I’d even glued the 60m layer to the 20m layer and probably discovered the problem less than 5 minutes before it would have been a major issue.

Finally when it was all glued down and laid out it was really satisfying. I am really pleased with the look and the accuracy. It feels like I am doing the battlefield justice and the contours, with the shadows, viewed from a distance show the shape of the hills.



Next up I am going to cover it all with sculptamold trying to keep the hill definition in tact. Hopefully I will be covering that with my next post. 

Till then, get some gaming in and stay safe!

Charles the Modeller





Thursday, April 22, 2021

Glorious Glosters, Imjin River, Korea 1951

Today is the 70th anniversary of the start of one of the greatest battles fought in the Forgotten War, the Chinese attack across the Imjin River in Korea. 300,000 troops attacked along a 80 mile front catching UN forces with strategic surprise. 

The key to this battle was defended by the British 29th Brigade near Choksong. The British, and a Belgian battalion, held several isolated hilltops. 

For 4 days, outnumbered 7 to 1, they fought, stubbornly holding the hills, co-ordinating artillery and air strikes as wave after wave of Chinese infantry assaulted them.

This heroic defence allowed the UN to stabilise and co-ordinate planned retreats and blunted the Chinese offensive capability. The Chinese offensive failed to achieve its objectives and 5 weeks later the ground was recovered preceding the stalemate that became the Korean Peninsula.

I am building a board to refight a part of this battle, the defence of hill 235 by the Gloucestershire regiment, known after this battle as the Glorious Glosters. For 4 days they held, surrounded and cut off until ammunition ran out. Relief attacks failed, air drops missed. Finally the battalion issued the order for individual break outs. 

Days later only 170 out of the 850 nominal troops were able to muster to receive the US Presidential Unit Citation award. If you don’t know about this battle read Andrew Salmon’s To the Last Round: The Epic British Last Stand on the Imjin River, Korea 1951. It a terrific book and an amazing tale.

I will be using the All Hell Let Loose rules (AHLL), available from Wargames Vault, with some minor adaptations and building a 6ft by 4ft board, with 1 inch to 100m ground scale. Work is well underway on the board. Figures will be Adler, WW2 commandos for the Glosters and Winter Russians for the Chinese.

I’ve added some photos of work to date. I will post more information and details of the build over the next few months.

Work on the base boards begins using the Luke APS approach 

Custom built grid to assist with contouring made from plastic strips

First section done, 7 more to go

Got to have a plentiful supply of canned products 

Progress is being made

Very happy, nearly done two boards. What? What do you mean this is the flat bit?!???

A little bit tricky

Looks good in place, but this isn’t the high point yet. Next board has 4 or 5 peaks all interconnected 

2nd board contouring done! One more board to contour!

Keep the dice rolling!

Charles the Modeller

Monday, April 12, 2021

Modifying unit stats and creating your own


The All Hell Let Loose rule book contains the stats for a range of vehicles and troops for the later war period. We very consciously choose not to stat up every vehicle and troop type for the entire war because it would double the length of the book, take ages to do and incite a thousand flame wars about whether this unit was too powerful vs another. What we have provided is a broad range of unit stats that allow players to use them as a template to build the units they need to fight the battles they want.

Units are divided by type into leg, wheeled, half tracked or tracked. This determines base speed.

Morale and quality is determined by the formation and is in 3 broad categories.

Units have a defence factor. By comparing the various vehicles and troops statted in the game is is fairly easy to determine roughly what any given vehicle should be if you know a little bit about it. These range between 5 and 12, so it’s not that hard to see where your unit falls on that scale!

Units have an attack score, with potentially different values for attacks against infantry than against vehicles. This also comes with a max range, all of which are divisible by 3. Attack values range between 0 and 7.

Finally we have created a range of keywords to describe a unit that apply minor variances. These include open topped for APCs, fast or slow to impact unit movement, optics for long range fire as well as others modifying morale and resilience.

All of this enables players to quickly and easily modify units to achieve the games they want without it being overpowering or daunting.

One of the members of the All Hell Let Loose Facebook group, Charlie Egham, did exactly this and has fought a number of battles set in the early stages of the war in the west set in France in 1940. He has generously given permission to share some of the photos from his gorgeous games here. 




He also uses 2mm buildings when fighting 6mm battles. Go on, give it a try!



Here in Britain we are now counting down the days to a return to the new normal and I hope very soon to be able to get some face to face gaming in for the first time in over a year!

Stay safe, and roll some dice!

Charles the Modeller 

6mm Parachutes

Today, the 17th September, is the 77th anniversary of the start of Operation Market Garden and the gamble to capture and hold a bridge acros...