Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Terrain Build Update - Breached Walls, Finished

The final 'table test', seeing how the completed model looks on the terrain mat

OK, so picking up where we left off in part one of this series of two posts looking at creating breached wall sections from Warbases excellent range of MDF Roman walls we now move on to finishing off the prepared breaches together with the bases for them and the rest of the wall sections and gate house designed to marry the whole thing together.

Terrain Build Uupdate - Breached Walls Part One

This next part of the construction uses all the skills and techniques covered in other posts I have done recently, looking at creating scatter terrain and modular sloped hills, namely the application of and sealing down of the coats of ballast and scatter that create the final terrained look and just as importantly sealing the whole model against constant handling by wargamers.

I will just cover off the basics here in this post but if you want to get a fuller description then you will need to go to my Labels tabs in the right hand column and find 'Terrain' and start with my series of posts looking at trees and scatter terrain from December 2018 entitled similarly to this post 'Terrain Build Update' and follow the series where I go into the basics of terrain work.

Ballast and sand added to the breaches to create the rubble look

So with the breached sections carved into shape, bits of large chunks of masonry added and a coat of plaster smeared on to lessen the larger, stranger looking air pocket holes formed in the expanding foam it was time to add the different sized pieces of sand and ballast to the coat of watered down PVA and allow the the whole thing to dry thoroughly.

It is now that the large pieces of masonry start to stand out and add that extra level of detail

In addition to the breaches the wall section bases got their texture added to their bases

As well as working on the breaches I needed to add texture to the bases on the other wall sections designed to help marry the whole thing together.

Note the little areas of grittier ballast designed to allow me to leave areas of the ground work showing through the turfed areas - I don't want this to look like a golf course when its finished!

Strictly speaking you would expect a gate house like this to have a 'cobbled stone' entrance but that would have required laying down a textured approach and sanding back the bottom of the gates so I decided on sticking to a more 'new build' look and plenty of dirt.

Once the ballast has dried thoroughly it was time to apply my trusty mix of PVA/water/chocolate brown house paint to apply the first sealing coat to the model and to provide a nice shadowy undercoat to the rest of the paint job.

You can be quite liberal with the brown and not worry about covering the detailed bits of masonry as all that detail will still get picked out by the next paint coat and areas of brown left give an impression of shadow in the recesses and great depth to the overall look.

Once the brown undercoat is dried thoroughly it is on to the first west-brush coat of highlight for the breaches where a going over of dark grey, dry brushed light grey was the first step.

Then the lighter chunks of stonework were picked out with the Coat d'Arms Field drab, highlighted Horse Tone Roan, as for the wall tops and pavement stones and I used a bit of both those colours to lightly dry brush areas of the rest of the breached rubble to add variety to the grey colour overall.

Dry brushing the detail into the rubble and the facing stonework just showing at the edges of the cracked plaster

Finally some of that lovely creamy white wall plaster would likely show especially at the outer reaches of the rubble spill where the top of the wall would have fallen out furthest from the rest of rubble spill.

Not too much though as most of it would be in among the core stone rubble.

This is also an opportunity to dry brush and accentuate the parts of the facing stonework revealed at the edges of the broken plaster which was created using the foam-board in part one.

One other touch that I didn't mention in part one was that I carefully scored crack lines into the MDF around the breached areas implying the stress to the remaining sections of plaster work still standing.

Note the areas of cracked plaster work showing around the breach, together with a few small pieces lying among the rubble

Once the rubble work was done I simply painted the wall that remained in the same colours as the standing sections (you will need to refer back to my posts from early 2018 to see the first build of my Roman wall and buildings to see what I did).

After that it was simply a case of dry-brushing the ground work with my light golden brown craft paint as per the scatter terrain posts.

All the painting done and left to dry overnight ready for the final coats of scatter to create the turf work

With all the painting done and the sections brought together to be left to dry thoroughly overnight you can already get a sense of how the walls will look once the turf scatter and clump grass tufts are applied.

Needless to say I went to bed satisfied with a good days work and really looking forward to the following day to bring this project to a close.

The next day was all about getting the ground work finished which means applying the three colour ground scatter, grass tufts and sealing with a final spray of PVA and water to lock the scatter down and blend the colours.

Again the detail of doing the scatter terrain work is covered in the post looking at the modular hills, suffice to say I was primarily looking to put the darker shade turf in close to the wall footings, along the border of the road entering the gate and around the broken groundwork.

Once that was done I applied a few areas of lighter scatter around randomly to create some variation to the turf, followed up by an overall finish of the mid green.

The colours when first applied can be quite a contrast, but a spray of water and PVA through an atomiser, the ones women use for perfumes and such like, will cause the colours to leech into each other and bring the whole thing together to create a more natural look.

Darker shades are applied around the foot of the wall with a few lighter patches randomly applies on the open turf. Then finished off with tufts. Note this turf has just been sprayed and already the colours are starting to blend as it dries.

One important thing to remember when applying the turf is to let the pieces dry off above any flat surface. The picture below shows all my sections drying on top of paint tins. This is really important as excess PVA/water can run off under the bases and will dry, firmly sticking your sections to the surface they are left standing on if you are not careful.

A little grass texture was applied to the inside section of the breaches to imply an internal grass verge

The base I planned for my gate house did not allow for the steps projecting from the back of the two towers and so I added left over wall capping to make a new layer of paving to go under each step

Once the turf was on, I allowed the bases to dry out a bit before adding the grass tufts and a few meadow flowers for variety.

The picture below shows all the sections turfed and now dry allowing me to put them out on the table together without any concern for them sticking to each other or the table cover.

Grassing the breached sections was a little different in that the bases had internal parts as did the gate house and I wanted to imply a small grassed area between the outer wall and the internal streets so added a small amount of turf on those internal parts of the base.

However in the wall is not the same as outside it and so I did not put any tufts on the inner parts, implying a better kept area of grass than that outside the wall.

Another consideration is that I intend to run battering rams and siege towers up against this wall and so I decided to be sparing with the grass tufts to allow plenty of room to get models placed on flat ground up against the wall.

My games are all about large scale battle with multi-figure bases and I am not really a fan of the individual figure based rules popular with WAB and some of the fantasy sets.

The breaches will accommodate individual figures placed on them to indicate the struggle when fought over, but are principally designed to show when a breach has been effected and where on the wall it is.

Finally we have the new walls and their bases displayed on one of my mats to show how they will blend into my table set up.

The next stage will be to populate the interior with other suitable buildings most likely from the Warbases range of Roman buildings and I already have an idea on how to create a road surface to place those buildings on, within the walls, to have it looking quite different from the surrounding countryside outside.

I am really pleased with how these walls have turned out and have confirmed my own thoughts when Warbases first released them about how suitable they are for scratch building and conversions, with the price making them very competitive with other resin options.

MDF is a very flexible product to work with but I am a firm believer that to make it look good a little work, preparing it and painting it, is still required just as you would with resin or most other materials.

The rear of a breach section next to my improvised paving supporting my tower door step.

With the amazing selection of excellent quality MDF buildings now available and with manufacturers wowing us with even more amazing things they are able to produce and at a price that is very affordable, good looking terrain to compliment good looking armies has never been so possible as it now is.

The next time you see the walls from inside I hope to show you my new set of internal buildings and internal road base

So that's the breached walls done  and I now have a mind to have a look at other types of hills together with a bridge or two, not to mention some roads I have my eye on, so a few more Terrain Updates to come going forward.

Lots of stuff to come on JJ's with my visit to Taunton and the Museum of Somerset, Steve M and I get some practice reacquainting ourselves with Dux Bellorum and the Battle of Pinhoe 1001 and I and a few of the chaps are off to Crusade in Penarth this weekend so lots to, no doubt, tell you about from there.

Monday, 21 January 2019

O'er the Hills is Published!

There is nothing quite like taking delivery of a brand new book that has your name on the cover, and on Saturday I had the pleasure of opening up my parcel from Stand to Games to find my brand spanking new copy of O'er the Hills, Early Peninsular War Scenarios written by yours truly.

Of course the book, the culmination of few years gaming, is not just down to one person, as friends I know personally and others I have met through this daft hobby across the globe via the net, have all contributed in enabling a collection of twelve separate scenarios form the core of the work alongside some other goodies that were contributed by Adrian McWalter and Quinton Dalton, the chaps from Stand to Games to be brought together under one title.

I have also had feedback from friends who have just received their copy together with comments on Facebook from others who have similarly just received copies all saying how pleased they are with the look and first read through of the content so I thought, bearing in mind that I have also received and seen comments of disappointment from those about not getting in on the Kickstarter in time, it would be helpful to show what the end product looks like and to invite those interested in getting a copy to get in touch and I will see where we are in arranging things.

The cover of O'er the Hills was a deliberate choice showing as it does the 3rd Guards in action at Talavera as depicted by C.C.P. Lawson and courtesy of the Regimental HQ Scots Guards.

I first saw this picture on the cover of 'Talavera, Wellington's First Victory in Spain' by Andrew W. Field which formed a significant reference in my work reconstructing the five scenarios that cover this very important battle and really does mark the end of this first phase of the Peninsular War.

The picture captures the intense fighting that typified Talavera and with the mountains of the Sierra de Segurilla shown in the extreme background seemed to echo the title of the book itself.

I had the pleasure of discussing the cover of O'er the Hills and the battle with Andrew and I am really looking forward to walking the battlefield later this year about which I am planning to share my thoughts here on JJ's.

For those that have purchased copies of other recent titles from Stand to Games, the production quality is sound and nicely produced, following a similar pattern to the other books, composed of  heavy glossy pages and with the type setting set against a period map backing.

The one-hundred and one pages consist of the following sections;

Background - British Involvement in the Peninsular War
Timeline of Events in 1808-09

The Twelve Scenarios
1. The Leopard's Debut, The Battle of Rolica 17th August 1808
2. Vimeiro Hill, The Battle of Vimeiro 21st August 1808
3. Flank Attack at Ventosa, The Battle of Vimeiro 21st August 1808
4. Elvina Ridge, The Battle of Corunna 16th January 1809
5. The March to Oporto, 10th - 11th May 1809, Retreat from Albergaria
6. The March to Oporto, 10th - 11th May 1809, Rearguard at Grijo
7. Assualt River Crossing - Second Battle of Oporto 12th May 1809
8. Casa de Salinas - Battle of Talavera 27th July 1809
9. Night Attack - Battle of Talavera 27th July 1809
10. Dawn Attack - Battle of Talavera 28th July 1809
11. The Pajar Vergara Redoubt - Battle of Talavera 28th July 1809
12. The Afternoon Attack - Battle of Talavera 28th July 1809

Army Lists 1808-09
The Peninsular British
The Peninsular French
The Peninsular Spanish

The text is accompanied by colour photographs of battle sites and figures from my own collection, Warlord Games, Perry Miniatures and Stand to Games and each scenario comes with a colour map illustrating the set up positions of the forces involved together with a picture of the table during one of our many play-tests to help give an even clearer idea of the look of the table envisaged.

Along with the pictures and artwork each scenario is structured in the same format with;

The Background account to the battle and why the forces were there to help give players that all important context.

The Scenario, laying out the forces involved and their set up positions ordered by the respective commanders, together with a description of the table, its size, key terrain features and a detailed order of battle giving the recommended specifics for using Over the Hills (OTH) to play the game.

The Battle Notes then looks at why specific formations were deployed as they were and what the respective commanders had in mind on how they were going to fight the battle, again designed to give the players as much background as possible to help them get into the minds of the commanders they are representing and the range of likely options they faced.

The Terrain section then describes the impact of key terrain features on the battlefield and translates them into the types identified in OTH.

Then The Objectives for each side are summarised together with which side takes the first turn as Player A as detailed in OTH and the number of turns allowed for the completion of the scenario before an assessment is made of who won or lost and the method described to determine that.

An example of the orders of battle laid out for a particular scenario with the respective sides colour coded and units grouped with their respective commanders

As well as the twelve scenarios the book comes with three new troop listings for OTH, British, French and Spanish specific to this period of the Peninsular War and offering some really interesting new Army Special Rules for depicting the Spanish on your tabletop.

Three new Army Lists for the Peninsular War in 1808-09

For those that have now got their copy of O'er the Hills, I really hope you like the end product and will see that I have attempted to put in this book aspects that I wanted to see included, to allow gamers to play, as close as is possible with a set of wargame rules, an historical scenario.

The scenarios are designed to present the players with the forces that each commander had on the day, the terrain they were either forced or chose to fight over and the background situation that drove them to make the choices they did.

How you decide to meet the same objectives they chose or were forced to meet is up to you but you will be constrained by the factors described and in some situations you will find it difficult to win the battle but if played thoughtfully still win the scenario by outperforming your historical counterpart and making better choices than they did, not to mention perhaps a little bit of fortune thrown in for good measure.

Just as importantly, we had a lot of fun testing these games to destruction, and the book is not an academic exercise in asset management but hopefully a series of games designed to allow the players to explore the history and have fun at the same time.

Two of the scenarios have been designed to link up as a mini-campaign, and I could see all five of the Talavera scenarios being fought in the same way to recreate the battle as a whole, but in more manageable bite sized chunks for those with a small collection and/or limited table space.

If you want to delve deeper into how we played these scenarios during the design and testing I can suggest no better place to start than referring back to the series of posts here on JJ's that were running at the end of 2017 and early 2018 and can be found by clicking the tab at the top of the page.

In addition you can find other stuff relating to Over the Hills in that tab that might be useful including a description of the materials we developed during play-testing to aid our games and the link to the folder where you can download them; or just use the link in the right hand column under 'My Resources and Downloads' and click on 'Over the Hills Resources' which will take you straight to the file.

The Over the Hills tab can be found at the top of the page

If you are looking for painting and modelling inspiration then click on the respective nation tabs for the Napoleonic forces I have modelled where I also give a bit of history together with ideas on how to create the look of the unit.

In addition to that you can check out my YouTube channel, that still sounds a bit weird every time I say or write that! But yes JJ's Wargames has a YouTube Channel, where I take a bit of time to talk about modelling specifics when creating units, such as paints, the colours I have chosen and the references I have used.

Finally for those who feel they need to contact me about a specific point then there is a contact form to be found on the blog which will allow us to correspond via email, and I try to respond promptly, and all email addresses are confidential to me.

You will have to bear with me if I am oversubscribed and I would ask everyone to take the time to scour this blog for the relevant information where it is very likely to be found before dropping me a question.

And for those interested in getting a copy of O'er the Hills who missed out for some reason, then feel free to drop me a line via the Contact Form stating your name and address details together with how many copies you might be interested in and I will look into getting that sorted and get back to you accordingly.

Thanks to all those who supported this, my first venture into publishing, and I hope you enjoy the book and let me know your thoughts, your first impressions and the games you have a go at playing.