28mm Wild West China Town

I have an extensive collection of 28mm Wild West skirmish figures (about two hundred at last count) and have built quite a few buildings for my frontier town. This project started when I was making customised Event Cards for The Rules with No Name – my preferred rules of choice for Western gaming.

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I had already painted some Chinese Tong from the excellent Old Glory set XCW-06 Chinese Tong and figured they really needed some place to emerge from when their card was drawn.

The Chinatown was built from foam core, cardboard, balsa and some basswood. The lanterns were made from beads.

This aerial view shows the entire model.  I base my buildings on mdf bases and decided to make this one single terrain piece rather than individually based structures.  From the right you will find a restaurant and laundry, a dwelling, a brothel and Mr Wu’s gambling den and butcher shop at lower left.

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Facing the main street we have the Red Dragon Restaurant. Best noodle house east of the Rockies.

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Also facing Main St is Chow’s Chinese Laundry.

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Between Chows and the Red Dragon runs the muddy alley known locally as Chink’s Alley.Image

Mr Wu is the local provider of meat. As well as sheep and beef there is plenty of game available from his meat cooler.

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Of course, another service he provides is body disposal. No-one wants to become food for Wu’s pigs.

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The back door of Wu’s place.

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And finally some of the local Tong members, ready to fight at the order from their boss.

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28mm Conflix-style Medieval Houses

I am away from the Woolshed for nine days – down in Wellington for work. I have delved into the past to find an article I wrote that first appeared on the Kapiti Fusiliers website (now sadly defunct).  Anyways, without further ado…

Some time ago I brought a couple of pre-painted Conflix 25mm buildings. They are a little fantasy-ish for many people’s liking but I found them to be exactly what I wanted for my Bretonnian village. I wanted an entire village but thought the cost may have been a little prohibitive so decided that I could make something similar. Here are the results.

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I used high density insulation polystyrene for the body of the building. Six months ago I got a 2.4m x 0.6m sheet for NZ$30. Styrofoam is manufactured by Dow Chemicals (in Saudi Arabia) and is available just about everywhere. So far the sheet I brought has built a model Stonehenge, a 28mm Fantasy castle and now two houses and I still have three quarters of it left. For the roof and shingles I made do with card from old note books. Wood was balsa scraps (I never throw anything away and keep all those little pieces left over from basing my figures). For glue I used PVA and Selleys No-More-Nails. The only paint I brought especially for this project was a small test pot of a terracotta colour from the local hardware store for NZ$4.00.

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First thing I did was do a few sketches to get an idea of what I wanted to build. In this case I used the Conflix building as a guide for overall size and the angle of the gable. Then I cut the polystyrene into the basic house shape I had decided upon and glued together with No-More-Nails. I do not have a hot wire foam cutter so use a box cutter knife to fashion the styrene instead. You just have to be careful that you don’t pull the blade through the foam or it will pull and not cut cleanly. I used toothpicks to pin the pieces together and to provide support while the glue dried. I cut roof sections from card and glued them to the gable ends.

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Then I cut balsa into strips and glued it around the body of the house to form all exterior beams, door and window frames. Door handles were made by using small panel pins pushed into the styrene leaving the head exposed.

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Now the really boring bit. Cut 5mm strips from thin card – I used the backing off old note pads. Then snip them to make 5mm x 8mm tiles. You don’t have to be that accurate, just make sure that they are all about the same size. Starting at the bottom of the roof, glue a line of tiles down. Continue doing this up the roof until you reach the ridge. Do the same on the other side of the gable and you just need to glue some capping pieces along the ridge.

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I had tried to find some wire mesh of about the right size to use as lead light window panes but could not find anything around the house or for a reasonable price at the hardware store. So instead, I glued card into the window openings with the intention of just painting the lead lights later. At this stage the construction phase of the project was finished.

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Now it was time to add a bit of texturing. All I did was smear some Selley’s No-More-Gaps on the wall with my finger. Any excess that got on the timber beams can be trimmed off later before painting. For the chimney, I cut a small rectangular piece of foam about the size I wanted. Then I cut a notch for it to fit onto the roof and glued it in place with No-More-Nails. When it was dried I shaped i with craft knife and then etched the stone shapes in with a pencil.

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Now the building is finished it is time to paint. Although it is tempting to spray paint the model, unless you have an airbrush I would not recommend it as a way of applying the first coat. The solvents in the spray paint do a fine job of dissolving polystyrene. So, the best thing is to apply a coat of paint over all the exposed styrene first with a brush. After that you can happily spray coat the rest of the building. I used a can of black automotive spray undercoat.

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I wanted my building to look like the Conflix ones that I already had, so I painted and dry-brushed the walls grey, the timber beams using GW Vermin Brown and the tiles with a terracotta house paint to match. The results do not look too shabby.

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The finished product (right) standing alongside its Conflix counterparts.

15mm WWII – Stuart Recce Tanks, Kangaroos and Staghounds.

In the years before Flames of War came out we used to be able to by these cool 15mm WWII vehicles made by a bunch of guys who I knew of – some peripherally and others quite well. I had acquired a few models here and there but WWII wasn’t my war-gaming period so it never went beyond that.  Then along came Flames of War and a revival of this period and like many others I got quite excited about it. Not the least of reasons was the fact that it was a local company doing good on the world gaming scene.

I decided to build a New Zealand force to represent the units that my father and several uncles served in during the campaign in Italy 1943-45.  So I began to collect miniatures to represent elements of 22nf Infantry Battalion, Divisional Artillery, Div Cav and 19th Armoured.

My Uncle Stan was in the Divisional Cavalry and I always liked Staghounds.  These models are 15mm Old Glory (Command Decision Code CD-116).

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These particular Old Glory models are great. I like the heft of the full metal model. Based on a standard Flames of War large base with some additional stowage.

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I have a couple of excellent little reference books by Jeffrey Plowman and Malcolm Thomas covering New Zealand armoured forces in the Second World War. 4th New Zealand Armoured Brigade in Italy and 2nd New Zealand Divisional Cavalry Regiment in the Mediterranean and there were several photos of Stuart Recce tanks. I really liked the look of these so decided to model a few.

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This one has a homemade gun-shield to protect the gunner (reference is photo on Page 11 of 4NZ Armoured Brigade in Italy) showing 20th Armoured Regiment Stuart Recces near Trieste, 1945.

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and another view of same.

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These models were just standard Battlefront Stuart V minis (Code BR0009) without the turret and some bits and bobs added to make them look a little more lived in. I thought that the canvas cover on this model came out quite well considering the scale.

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Finally, Dad used to tell me stories about banging about on Kangaroos. The New Zealand forces didn’t operate them but Canadian or Scottish units used to ferry our troops into battle on occasion according to Dad. He said they were great for driving up to a house and being able to scramble through first floor windows.  He was in one once that took a hit from a German tank, He said they saw it down the end of a street and the driver gunned it to get behind a house. He reckons the tank shell went through the house and still knocked them out.  Anyways, here are a few shots of some Canadian Kangaroos (old white resin Battlefront that came in little card boxes).

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The infantry riding in these Kangaroos are Old Glory 15mm Bren Carrier Crews (Command Decision Bren Carrier Crew CDBC-07).

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Hope you enjoyed these miniatures, my tribute to Uncle Stan (Div Cav) and Uncle Bob (19th Armoured) and unknown members of the Canadian Army in Italy.

28mm Connoisseur Saxon Garde du Corps

Apologies for the poor photos but I just cannot seem to get the lighting right. More experimentation needed. The yellow of the coats is a more yellow-buff colour in real lighting conditions and they are not quite so glossy.

I think that these and the Saxon Zastrow Cuirassier figures were the best of the Napoleonic sculpts that Peter Gilder did for his Connoisseur range.  These are still available from Andrew Barret at Bicorne Miniatures.  They have an animation that modern figures seem to lack. The detail is a bit more sketchy and you have to take the odd guess as to what exactly has been molded but all in all, I think they stand up pretty well for models designed in the 80s.

These are based on 40x50mm bases. I have decided to base all heavy cavalry on this size base, and for light cavalry the bases are 50x50mm.

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If the Connoisseur Range had one flaw it was the lack of trumpeters and standard bearer figures in the cavalry ranges. I understand that Peter Gilder consciously made the decision not to make them as a matter of economics. He would sell one or two of such figures for every dozen or so of the trooper models.  Bearing that in mind, the trumpeter and standard bearer are just trooper models converted. In the case of the trumpeter it is paint only and he must have dropped his trumpet.

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In an earlier post I said that I wouldn’t even attempt the monograms on the pistol holsters or saddle cloths. As a great philosopher once said A man has to know his limitations.

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The Zastrow Cuirassiers are next on the Heavy Cavalry to-do list. Just waiting on an order from Bircorne to arrive that includes a solitary Garde du Corps trooper who will become a trumpeter for the Zastrows.

Meanwhile, the re-basing of models painted over twenty years ago in the 80s continues. Next – A regiment of Hinchliffe and Foremost Dragoons.

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Rural Life: Homekill.

When I started this blog I thought that from time to time I would do posts on rural life in New Zealand. This is my first such post.

Living in an urban setting it is easy for people to become distanced from the source of the foods they eat.  Meat, for most people, comes in bloodless packaged and wrapped portions nicely sitting on a styrene tray. When we moved to the country I had to learn a whole set of skills that were not needed as a ‘townie’.  Probably the most interesting was learning how to process meat.  I will take you through some of the steps involved in getting that lamb from the paddock to the plate.

The first step is killing the lamb.  I hold the animal down and cut it’s throat, simultaneously breaking it’s neck. Death is almost instant.  The head and lower legs are removed. I hang the animal to drain all the blood.

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Then it is a matter of removing the fleece. A few cuts with the knife to get started and then it is in with hands and forearms to peel the fleece off the carcass, starting at the rear end and working down to the neck.  You end up with this.

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The next step is to get rid of the insides. You have to be careful when slitting down the belly that you don’t perforate the guts. If you are careful you will note that nature keeps everything enclosed in it’s own neat and non-smelly packaging.

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Once the insides have been removed, the carcass is cleaned up and left for a day or so for the meat to set. It can then be cut up into the cuts you want. I am no butcher, so I do leg and shoulder roasts, chops, a nice lamb fillet and a big pile of mixed lamb meat that I can mince or use for stir fries or whatever. The meat goes in the freezer and we no longer have to ponder the price of a lamb roast at the supermarket. The first bit that gets eaten though is the offal – heart, liver and kidneys make a great fry up for breakfast the next day.

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When it comes to beef there is just too much there for me at the moment. If I stuff up a lamb I am out less than a hundred bucks. With a steer it is more like being out thousands. So, I use a local homekill professional to kill and process my beef. He comes along and dispatches the animal on site and does the preliminary butchery here. The process is basically the same as for the sheep except on a larger scale.

Here is the first steer I had processed. Bubba was a four month old calf when we got him. Killed at 2 years. He was the guest of honour at our inaugural Bubba-que.

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Here is Kevin the homekill guy skinning the carcass. He kills the beast with a shot to the head and then cuts the throat to let it bleed out.

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This is what is left – a side of beef. Or in this case, two sides of beef. It goes away and is hung for 2-3 weeks and returns packaged into whatever cuts I ordered. I like to get it mostly as steaks, roasts, stewing cuts, mince and a variety of small goods such as sausages and salamis.

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The quality and taste of homekill meat is fantastic. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the animals are killed when they are not stressed. An abattoir killed animal has been removed from it’s familiar surroundings, been jostled about in a stock truck, been penned up with animals it doesn’t know in a strange location.  The stress and anxiety levels are huge. Bubba, by comparison, was happily munching grass in the paddock in which he was king, and then blammo – light’s out.

And how does this relate to wargaming? How else do you think I feed all those hungry wargamers who come to stay for a weekend of gaming?

28mm Perry French Line Artillery.

Finally got these chaps finished. Brought so long ago the shop that sold them to me has been out of business for six months.  I had actually forgotten I had them until I unpacked a box of crap left untouched since we moved to the country three years ago.  It was a little like Christmas. Also found some Perry French Marshals and a pack of Senior Officers of various regiments lounging about  and a whole lot of woodland Indians I had got for a stalled War of 1812 project.  Hopefully not stalled for too much longer.

Anyways, I used to have my artillery mounted on 40mm wide bases but went with 50mm wide for this unit. I think it works a lot better.

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They are a mixture of sets FN17, 18 and 19.

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I like three to four gun batteries for Napoleonics. They look more like an artillery battery to me than a single gun model or perhaps two stuck on the table.  My next artillery project is a unit of French Guard Horse artillery.  I am going with Elite Miniatures guns (when I order them next week), Bircorne Minitaures crew and probably Hinchliffe Limbers because I have about thirty of them from a bulk lot I got about twenty years ago off a wargamer who was retiring from the hobby.

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Saxon Garde du Corps WIP

In the mid-80s I brought a unit of Connoisseur Miniatures 28mm Saxon Garde du Corps off Peter Gilder.  They sat unpainted in a box for nearly twenty years until I brought them some stable mates – a unit of Connoisseur Zastrow Cuirassiers from JT Miniatures who at that time owned the Connoisseur line.  Of course, they all sat mocking me until this past weekend. So the Garde du Corps got undercoated and ready to paint.

These Saxons will be part of my miniature 4th Cavalry Corps (1812), alongside regiments of Westphalian and Polish Cuirassiers.

One problem with the old Connoisseur line was the lack of standard bearers and musician models in the cavalry ranges.  I have converted a trooper to be a standard bearer (far left).

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I have almost no freehand ability so the monograms on the pistol holster covers and the saddle cloth wont be there.  I was reasonably happy with this model, given my level of ability.

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And a trumpeter who is partially completed.

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These models are quite chunky and full of mid-80s goodness – The horses are a bit small compared to the riders but I still like them.  Connoisseur miniatures are still available from Bicorne Miniatures in the UK.  I really love these old-style figures. As much as I like modern figures with their crisp mold lines and fine detail, I find they lack something in animation and personality. To me they are all much of a muchness.

Recently Eureka released a good line of Saxon heavy cavalry. They look really nice and I am tempted to get a unit to paint as the third Saxon Regiment that seems to get forgotten – the Leib Kürassiere Garde.  They have those fiddly monograms that I could never paint in a million years molded on the figure. That has to be good.
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Inside the Woolshed

After requests I thought I would post a few shots of the interior of the woolshed. It has been partially converted from a working woolshed but the shearing boards are still there. You can see the four bays complete with their working electric motors. I could probably sell them but I think they look pretty cool.

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This is a panoramic shot down the main length of the shed. I currently have 2 6×6 tables ( or one 6×12) and a 9×5 (table tennis table).  On the right are the rooms and further down the lean to that currently houses gym equipment and couches.

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The study/painting room. Just beyond the bedroom.

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Exterior of study.

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This is where I try to reduce my classic wargamer physique down to something more healthy. Further down another bed just in case I get tired at the thought of all that exercise.

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The shed has traditionally also been used as a local party venue. Continuing this tradition our neighbours across the road celebrated the wedding of their son and his new bride there last summer.

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The homestead. It is a named property called “Oeta”. We don’t have many really old buildings in New Zealand. This house is well over a hundred years old which is pretty ancient by our standards.  It was built by a chap called Jimmy Hunter, who played 2nd Five Eights for the 1905 Originals All Blacks who toured the UK and France that year. He played in 23 games and scored 44 tries on that tour. He lived here and farmed in this area for decades and eventually his son took over the farm.  Like many of these old properties it was broken up over successive generations. We own just a fraction of the original land and the house and woolshed. Enough to grow our own meat (beef and sheep) and grow a lot of our own vegetables and fruit.

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New Year Resolutions

For starters, I am going to do something toward reducing the Napoleonic lead and plastic mountain.  Those boxes are all pretty much full. I never realised exactly how much crap I had accumulated. Then there are the GW plastic and lead mountains. the 28mm Samurai lead mountains and countless other boxes of random stuff (pirates, western, post-apocalypse). I had better get cracking.

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I have made a start.  I painted the first Napoleonics I have done in over ten years in the past few weeks and have embarked on a project to rebase my 28mm armies.

French Old Guard Chasseurs by Front Rank.

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French Old Guard Grenadiers by Victrix.

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My wargame shed. An old Woolshed on my property. My new man-cave is 207m2, which is bigger than our last house. The previous owners were going to develop it as a farm-stay and had converted part of it to include a couple of bedrooms. I retained a bed in one and use the other as a painting study.

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My painting desk.

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And the first rebased units – mostly made up of old Connoisseur, Elite, Front Rank and Hinchliffe models all mixed together. I really like the animation of the older style figures. I find most models today to be somewhat wooden, but a hell of a lot easier to paint.

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Here is a typical base – figures from three different manufacturers.

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Wargaming in Rural New Zealand

For starters, there are not many opponents. You get to do a lot of naval gazing, and I don’t mean looking at my 1/1200th Napoleonic ships.  I spend a lot of time reading and interacting with fellow gamers on the internet, but just occasionally I get to have a real wargame with a real live adversary.  Welcome to my ramblings on wargaming, modelling and rural life.

Wargaming and Roleplaying in the wilds of rural New Zealand

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