Wednesday 30 March 2022

France 1940

Hello again, folks. Back after a few weeks when my head has been in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. This culminated in a re-fight of the Battle of Wissembourg, that was more notable for research of the scenario than the quality of its terrain, I regret to say. We made do with some fairly old scenic items that were not of the standard you expect from HBH! Later in the year I hope to address that, but for now we have photos from the next-but-one showdown between France and Germany, that of May 1940.

Six-ten years ago we played a lot of Chain of Command WWII skirmish. It's great set of rules, though I have one or two reservations, being a picky sort of chap. The gallant French army of 1940 is my favourite WWII force, so I built up a platoon with strong support, some of which was scratch-built and will be featured on here soon. The figures are by Crusader: easy to paint though awful chunky in their build ( a bit like me these days).

The house is a laser-MDF job from 4Ground, plain but a decent model. Strangely this company has gone bust now, after taking a lot of money in via Kickstarter, I am told! Anyway, the scene is brightened here  by the typically French painted advertisement on the gable wall. The road is from a batch I made out of sand and felt, which I'll explain properly another time. Roofs are always the worst part of laser-cut kits as the technology is incapable of anything like a realistic texture. So I replaced the roof with the trusty Wills plastic sheets.

The two tanks are Hotchkiss 39's. I can't remember the manufacturer but there are better ones available from Rubicon nowadays anyway. At first the H 39 tank was built with a short 37mm gun (SA 18) and later with the longer SA 38. Commonly the commander of each platoon would have this better version. The camouflage pattern is different on the hulls and the turrets, as was common for French tanks at this time. The reason was they were built in different factories, each of which had their own ideas on the subject of camouflage. Many tanks had individual names, sometimes with a theme across the unit; here we have the Ajax and the Alexandre.

A tricolour and a registration number were universal on French tanks, although painted in different patterns. The famous playing card symbols indicated the company, by the colour used: blue, white and red in that order of course!. The card suite symbol then shows which of the four platoons of the company the tank belonged to. I subscribe to a French magazine GBM, which is the most authoritative source for the army of 1914- 1940.

The 4Ground buildings are good for skirmish games because they come apart floor by floor to allow figures to be moved within. 

I resurfaced the whole outside of house, using decorator's filler to give a more realistic texture. You stipple it on with a big brush and sandpaper it a bit when dry. Pick off any filler that's attached itself to the features you want to leave, using a scalpel point.

These building kits have interiors that are good enough for gaming purposes with no extra work.

The posters are common ones from the "phoney war" period in France, equating to "Buy war bonds", "General Mobilisation", the equivalent of "Walls have ears" and my favourite "We shall win because we are the strongest". It shows the French and British colonies as globe-spanning empires: how could the little black spot of Germany hope to take them on? Whoops.

I painted the Dubonnet ad more or less by hand. I made a crude stencil to help by printing off the text on a sheet of paper and then laboriously cutting out the letters with a scalpel. After painting the blue background I taped the stencil to the wall and brushed white paint through it. It needed some tidying up by eye, but it's near enough. More sophisticated methods exist nowadays!

Saturday 12 March 2022

A Breech and Some Rocks

Here ends my posting of Lord of the Rings models, with two different subjects. We have a breeched fortress wall, and some, ahem, scatter terrain.

Wanting to do siege games my friends and I bought the old Games Workshop "mighty fortress" kit, injection moulded in styrene. The whole thing was constructed but only painted up in a basic way, so I didn't think it was particularly worth photographing. However, you you used to be able to buy separate wall and tower sections, so I went to some trouble to model a breeched wall section, as seen here. The painting isn't really up to the standard of the modelling, because it wouldn't have matched the rest of the structure. I built the broken wall as masonry outer faces with a rubble filling, the way massive walls are commonly constructed.

The defenders here, in the interests of a nice colour contrast, are Southrons, which I did in the way Tolkien describes them: kind of "Saracens", dressed in red and gold. They are from the old Vendel range for the era of Muslim rule in Spain, but I converted them a bit before painting.  

I made a lot of "scatter" pieces suitable for this and other skirmish games. It seemed a very suitable place for the Rangers of Ithilien to be sneaking around. Here we see their leader Faramir, nicely painted by my friend Garry Broom. 

The rocks are made out of real rocks, which I scrounged from the garden section of a local DIY store as "samples". They look quite good and were easy to do, but they weigh a ton! My LOTR terrain tray is quite a job to maul around...

And here stands Gandalf the White, as I think you will all know. I painted this figure exactly as the film and GW model showed him, because in this case it seemed to meet the expectation of him that we get from the book. I did put some effort in here to paint the folds of his clothing and the slightly different colours and textures of each not-quite-white garment. I must admit I was pretty pleased with how he came out.

Wednesday 9 March 2022

Ruins of Middle Earth

This overgrown ruin been painted and dressed up by me, but it's basically a "ruined monastery" by the German firm Ziterdes. Their buildings are produced in "hard foam", ie expanded polyurethane, like the Hudson and Allen products. That's a specialised, expensive process to set up, but results in an ideal wargames model: strong , light and well-detailed. I have got a lot of trees based on pins these days, and they would look good in and around this ruin, but I wanted to show it clearly in this post.

I suppose this model could work for some historical skirmish games, but to me it is perfect for the Lord Of The Rings landscape, which features the ruins of ages past, some built thousands of years before the main stories. 

One more LOTR post to come and then we will be back to real historical subjects.

Sunday 6 March 2022

The Mausoleum of an Ancient King

Here's the second batch of Lord of the Rings-themed modelling. Neither the building nor the statue-lined road were modelled directly on anything from the film or book, but I wanted to make something with the atmosphere of the story, as a scene around which a skirmish could take place.

The other inspiration, for the Mausoleum at least, was spotting a whole series of items in my local Hobbycraft shop, which I couldn't help seeing as the basis for something LOTR-ey. So the main structure is a papier mache box, the dome a polystyrene ball, the curly ornaments were jewellery "findings" and the scrollwork from stickers used for greeting cards. 

The statues were cast in plaster, which gives something ideal for distressing to show age and damage. Roadway from Wills cobblestone sheets. Bushes done in my usual way, out of rubberised horsehair and granulated cork.

Tuesday 1 March 2022

The Seeing Seat of Amon Hen

Well, I'm back, to quote Sam Gamgee's understated words at the very end of the Lord Of The Rings book. I first read that book at a precocious age, and about every ten years since. People know the story and the world Tolkien created more from the films nowadays of course. For fans of the book, Peter Jackson's blockbuster was a mixed bag: some locations and scenes exactly how you imagined them and others sadly very much not. At any rate it was nearer the mark than his subsequent The Hobbit.

The film and the Games Workshop figures (superbly sculpted by the Perry twins), got me and my pals skirmish gaming in the early 2000's and of course there had to be some terrain. I made a number of assorted pieces and here is  the first of them, the Seeing Seat of Amon Hen, scene of a dramatic confrontation and indeed scene of some dramatic skirmish games we have had.

A shot that came out better than it had any right to do, with a convincing effect of light and darkness. The pillars were made out of slices of ballpoint pen. The paving is Wills sheet, the steps from a set I made and cast years before. 

Here the Uruk- Hai have found their prey. The main part and support for the platform were cannibalised from elements of the old Games Workshop "Mighty Fortress" plastic kit. 

In the remaining shots the orcs swarm to the attack. There's not much more to say about the making of this structure. The top platform was carefully carved out of a big piece of 2mm thick styrene sheet. The eagles were made the same way. I decided I wasn't going to try and sculpt them as full 3D representations. It gives the impression anyway. Just recently by the way, Forge World have produced a very nice resin model of Amon Hen. It's £145, but not bad value at that, certainly by Games Workshop's standards.

Ah yes, the sky. The slow boat carrying the printed sky backdrop I ordered from China about two months ago finally docked, and the thing has been spray-mounted onto card for my scenic backdrop. It's got a nice fluffiness to the clouds, though the sky is just a teeny bit on the turquoise side for my liking. But mustn't grumble; to be honest it's surreal that you can have anything made and transported from the other side of the world for about £7 including postage. 

The figures were painted by Garry Broom and myself. I converted the Uruks more or less, to give variety and because I wanted them to have the "crooked swords" Tolkien refers to rather than the daft, dysfunctional choppers of Peter Jackson's thinking.

There is more Lord of the Rings scenery to come over the next week or two. By the way I haven't been entirely slacking over the last three weeks when there's been no posts. I have had my rules-writing head on, focussing very hard on producing a set for mass battles of the Franco-Prussian War 1870-71. Most of the hard part is done, and they certainly work, but a binder full of writing wouldn't make much of a picture to show you.