Thursday, 22 March 2012

Monty on Tour: Rheindahlen Re-Action 2012

"On the road again... Going places that I've never been." was the motto for last Saturday. Only three days before I noticed that a wargaming convention would take place just an hour away: The Re-Action at Rheindahlen JHQ (yes, you are right Joint Headquarter → link).
The Rheindahlen Rooms, place of the last Action-Wagames-Convention...

Our Party: Max, Chrissy, Monty and Auld Nick
Years ago some guys from the base founded the Rheindalen Wargames Club and have been organizing conventions for the last twenty years. However for me it was the first time to visit such an event and I was really exited about it. Our party was built up of Auld Nick whom you already know, Chrissy (another friend of ours) with his son Max (my godson) and me. We met on the parking lot near the Rheindahlen Rooms where the convention took place after we passed the adventure of getting there since the JHQ is a military area as you might have assumed. We had our passports checked by a German guardsman at the gates and had to get a special parking permit at the SOC (Security Operation Cell), rather complicated but without any greater problems. At about 11 o'clock we entered the Ball Room and were overwhelmed by the view of the gaming tables and the merchants' stands.

The crowed Ball Room.
First we took a walk through the crowded ball room. It was filled with a delightful eagerness. All those people wandering between the nicely set up gaming tables. Other guys exploring the offers of the traders. We saw several well known companies there and even some local shops were present with stands. But of course the gaming boards kept our attention far more. There were a lot of groups introducing themselves and the different rule sets they were using. Unfortunately there wasn't enough time to visit all the tables, take photos of them or participate in the games the offered.

However there was a Japan themed table that cought our attention from the very first time we passed it. Tobias Schwabem, a nice fellow from northern Germany, had created a marvelous table representing a scenario called "The Battle of Mikawa" where one Samurai warlord (Daimyo) had to defend himself and a cloister against an attacking alliances of three foes. The board was set up for 28mm scale and all models were nicely painted Perry Miniatures from their Samurai Range.

The combatants gathering around the table...
When we passed the table for the second time, Tobias and another guy (he introduced himself as Gero later) were looking for three additional players to start a participation game. We took the chance and joined the game. Tobias used the "Triumph and Tragedy" rules for which he created some Samurai houserules. The game was great. Tobias was a really patient and nice gamemaster and described all rules to us. Afterwards we fought a brave battle with moments of luck, audacity and defeat. We spent more then three and a half hours there and challenged Maximilian's whole patience. Although he just turned six last October he was really uncomplaning and folowed the game attentively. He even gave me som tactical advice to me which unfortunately didn't lead to success...
Nick and Gero gather their superior attackers while I try to set a some kind of defense.
Unfortunately we were not able to finish the game because I had to pick up my wife and daughter at my parents-in-law's on time...

So we took a final walk through the hall and gathered some more impressions:
A great table with a Battle of the Bulge theme. The table was presented by the Herford Games & Modelling Club. They used the Rapid Fire Rules and we witnessed a Germany infantry squad being blast into pieces by an American mortar strike when Charles - one of the Re-Action organizers - rolled the dice. Although we don't know Rapid Fire it looked really fun to play...

Somewhere else the Dutch club Alde Garde presented a table with a battle between the French and the Netherlands that took place in 1690. Although we didn't get the chance to wath them playing we enjoyed the board and the great miniatures:

Another great table was the one below covering Wellington's Peninsular Campaign. The club "La Granden Armée" from Hoek van Holland set up a large table covered with cloth and several terrain pieces to represent a battlefield in Spain. In spite off the simple means the look was great.

After savouring every single minute we hurried back to Düsseldorf and closed a very nice trip.

Unfortunately the Rheindahlen JHQ will be closed within the next year. Therefore this was the convetion of the club based there. Since it was my first convention of this kind the Re-Action 2012 will always have a very special place in my memory and I'm looking forward to visit other events like this. Maybe Crisis 2012 in Antwerp will be my next chance...

However until then Nick, Chrissy and me decided to do something beside 20mm. Those nice 28mm figures cept our eyes and remembered us what details are possible in this lightly bigger scale. While I invested in a unit of Napoleonic British Infantry at first, there might be some room for a couple of Samurais as well. I'll keep you on the loop...

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Decision trees or Trees of Decision

Last Saturday was a great day for wargaming. Four days before I noticed that the Re-Action-Convention (link) took place at Rheindahlen (about an hour away from where I live) and convinced two friends of mine to accompany me. It was a great time and I'll post a review the next days.

However I spent yesterday evening with Ice Hockey and modell trees. The stems are from Heki, a Germany producer, and I bought them years ago. Finally I used them to tried different methods of foliation.

From left to right:
Heki stuff:
On this tree I used the stuff that was sold with the stems. It's a kind of fibrous web with some flock glued on.

For this tree I used Woodland Scenic's Foliage Light Green as the Heki stuff it's a kind of thin web with small foliage glued on. Unfortunately the foliage is very, very loose.

Another Woodland Scenic's product on this tree: Bushes Medium Green. Actually it's a kind of clump foliage but cut into smaller pieces.

Polyfibre and Turf:
On this tree I processed in two steps: First I applied a cloud of Woodland Scenic's Polyfribre to the tree, covered it with glue again and dipped it into fine turf (some Citadel stuff I bought about fifteen years ago).

I like tree number three ("Bushes") most. The clump foliage was easy to apply and it's quiet sturdy when varnished. And it looks very well.
The polyfibre make a nice crown but the old Citadel turf isn't suitable as leaves. With a rougher turf (like the stuff on tree number two) it might be better.
The other two variants failed. The flock falls off very easily and glueing the web was a pain.

What do you think?

Friday, 16 March 2012

A new hill and more bocages

When we returned from Koblenz the weekend before last Auld Nick and me weren't deedless. Nick build some Bocages whose blanks I prepared some weeks ago while I finished a hill.

The hill is based on the Games Workshop modular hill. After base-coating it with black spray paint I covered the stony parts with Citadel Rough Coat, a structure paint spray whose production was cancelled about two years ago. Afterwards I painted the rocks with Citadel Foundation Charadon Granite and drybrushed with Vallejo London Grey. I like that silightly brownish tone of Charadon Granite. However the lawn was painted green and covered it with some medium-light green static grass. Looks like springtime... A bit too tidy... I should keep that in mind when working on my new boards: They shall look more realistic and less like Wimbledon.

The Bocages were built as described in my tutorial (here). Fearing for his fingers Niclas was a bit hesitant with the hot glue gun. Therefore I had to fix some holes but generally I'm satisfied. Only one piece of Bocages has to be overworked. When I covered the pebbles with thinned PVA glue I was too freehanded and disfifured some poly fibre shrubbery Niclas apllied on the base. I'll present pictures when I meded the worst.

Two end section and a centrepiece. I should afforest the right piece a bit...
Two other centerpieces. Taken as a whole I've got about 1m Bocages now. Far from enough for a Normandy game...
Next I plan to create more straight pieces, some pieces with fencing and corners as well as crossings. Slowly I get tired of Bocages and hedgerows...

But not this weekend. Tomorrow I'll visit the Re-Action-Convention in Rheindahlen (Germany) and absorb some new ideas there. Especially some 28mm stuff would be interesting since I plan a little sidestep there.

However I'll post a review next week.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Auld Nick's workbench: Stone Walls

This time it's not me who is seeking your estimated attention. Auld Nick, a close friend of mine, spent some time to create some stonewalls for our gaming board. He wrote a short tutorial and asked me wether I was interested to post it as byline article.

Needless to say I'm pleased to and admit Auld Nick to the floor:

Hi there folks,

my name's Niclas (a.k.a. Auld Nick). Monty and I are old friends since school days and share, not surprisingly, a common interest ­­– 20 mm (1/72 – 1/76 resp.) scale modelling.

After our trip to the WTS and subsequent scale modelling session last weekend I decided to build some other terrain parts for our little game – stone walls.
Building stone walls actually follows the basic concept of building bocages explained by Monty in a recent post (link); because of the good results obtained when building several bocages last weekend I decided to adapt it in order to build the walls (Monty's not: I'll present the Bocages after the finishing touches) .

I used the following material to build the walls:
  • Hot glue: I used it to glue base strips and wall cores together.
  • PVA Glue (Wood glue): Used to fix turf and scatter material onto the wall’s surface. My recommendation is to dilute the glue with water as it is a bit thick when used straight out of the bottle.
  • Primer: I used black acrylic spray paint.
  • Turf yellow grass: Fine scatter material; ideal to emulate moss and lichen.
  • Scatter material: Slightly coarser variant of turf resembling sod/grass and used in this manner.
  • Clump foliage: Used as shrubbery.
  • Stone boulders: Needed for the stone surface of the walls. I used medium-sized quartz boulders.
  • Kapa board: Kapa is the German trade name of three-layered composite board (two outer cardboard shells with a polystyrene core). I decided to use boards measuring 3 mm in thickness. (Monty's note: I think in English you call it "foamboard")
  • Styrodur: Styrodur is the trade name of foamed polystyrene blocks sold in shape of rectangular bars in German DIY stores (Obi, Bauhaus etc.). The size of the bars doesn’t really matter, as long as you can cut it into pieces of the following measurements: length: 10 or 5 cm resp.; height: 2 cm; diameter: 1 cm.
  • Fine sand: Used as scatter material.
  • Ballast: Used as scatter material.
And here’s how I built the walls:
The base of the walls I fashioned out of kapa board. Because I had something of a modular system in mind I decided to use two basic lengths for the base strips, 10 cm and 5 cm respectively, the width of the strips measuring 2 cm.

A piece of Styrodur foam before it's been cut. It's rather solid stuff that's a bit tricky to cut but it can be sanded nicely.

Onto those I glued styrodur pieces of the appropriate length using hot glue (N.B.: When used excessively the hot glue tends to melt the styrodur considerably, a fact that should be taken into consideration when applying the stone boulders in a later step). This procedure gives you straight wall sections; I recommend that you treat them with a scalpel or cutter in order to give the crest and sides an uneven and more natural appearance.

The prepared core for the stone walls. More for the cornered section later...
To have more options of setting up the walls I decided to build some quoins as well. For this I used two 5 cm kapa strips. These were joined by means of a mitre joint: I took one strip and cut away part of one end in 45° angle; I repeated this with the second strip; then I glued both strips together. The result was an angled piece with a 90° angle (the outer edges of the piece measuring the original 5 cm of the two separate 5 cm strips) onto which I glued the styrodur core of the wall following the outline of the base (i.e. a quoin with a 90° edge).

The next step was to apply the primer; although I used acrylic paint with water as solvent the binder contained within the paint (some sort of resin would be my guess) had a slight dissolving effect on the styrodur of my first two wall segments. This effect can be diminished, I found out, by sparsely applying the paint. In case that there are some blank spots left: That’s no grave matter since my next step consisted in painting the segments by hand. I used a middle grey colour for the styrodur core and a dark green for the parts of the kapa base still visible.
The stone wall ready to be covered with pebbles, clump foliage etc.
After the paint had dried I started to glue the stone boulders onto the styrodur using hot glue (my advice is that you treat only small portions of the pieces at a time: this gives you the opportunity to correct the fitting of the stones and by the same token diminishes the chance of burning yourself with hot glue – not an altogether pleasant experience I can assure you!).

The next step was to decorate the segments using the foliage, turf and scatter material. The turf is a good choice for imitating moss or lichen on stones, the scatter material can be used as grass. In order to glue it onto the walls you simply treat the spots where you want the lichen, grass etc. with diluted wood glue and then sprinkle the material turf etc. on it. The clump foliage can be used as shrubbery: Simply glue it to the spot where you want a shrub; let it dry, then brush some diluted wood glue onto the clump foliage and sprinkle it with fine turf or fine scatter material.

You can further adorn segments with trees: Simply glue them to free spots, where, for example the wall has crumbled leaving open a breach – there are quite a few arrangement possibilities.

That’s, more or less, the procedure for building stone walls.

A last hint: I encountered some problems with the straight joints of the segments: There were quite a few gaps between the individual segments when I aligned them in order to form a continuous wall. I overcame this problem by gluing little pieces of clump foliage onto both narrow sides of the segments; this helps concealing the uneven straight joints of the individual segments.

Well then... Thanks a lot for the tutorial. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Next time I'll present the finished Bocage segments and maybe some WIP-pictures of the houses I'm working on. Soon I plan a side trip to some 28mm Napoleonic stuff and I hope you don't mind that I'll post it here although the main theme of my Blog was 20mm WW II.

Finally some pictures of Nick's finished wall segments:

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Monty on Tour: Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung Koblenz

Last Saturday some friends of mine and me started a very special excursion:
We visited the Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung (Collection of Defence Technology) Koblenz. We spent a really interesting time there and we were wandering through the exibition for about three and a half hours. Although there are museums which are much more spacious than the WTS (abbreviation for Wehrtechnische Studiensammlung) we saw some nice objects there.

However let's get back on square one:

Since my wife and daughter took the car to visit some schoolmates of my wife over the weekend I had to rely on Deutsche Bahn (German Rail). Therefore my alarm clock rang without mercy on 06:30 a.m. Still dowsy I got up and took a refreshing shower. Afterwards I prepared some provisions for the road: A thermos flask of tea and some buns. Fortunately my tea pot is larger than the flask so I was able to take a cup of Earl Grey right before breakup. Afterwards I hurried to the subway and caught the 07:56 train to Düsseldorf at Bochum central station.

Smaller than I thought: Light infatry support gun 75mm (link)
After three-quarters of an hour I arrived at Düsseldorf central station were Niclas picked me up. We entered his green Volkswagen Lupo "Tree-Frog" and set sail for Koblenz. These days that's a little tricky since some bloody stupid bastards burned a bridge on the A57 motorway which is a possible southbound cinjunction from Düsseldorf. Anyway we chose a alternative route and got to Koblenz half past ten. Soon after us our third companion Daniel arrived and we entered the WTS. The admission charge is as low as 3 € which is really fair.

On the ground floor are several vehicles and a lot of guns arranged. Very interesting is the technical process from medieval forget archebuses to modern artillery. Unforunately some parts of the exibition are densely stuffed and there is no chance to get a close view at the details which are that interesting for us modellers...

A rare exhibit: Renault FT (link)
The other part of the ground floor is a large hall with vehicles, planes, helicopters and various smaller items like ammunition, rockets and more guns. Exceedingly impressive is the 128mm Anti-Aircraft Gun. An awesome monster of a gun!
However there are several nice exhibits from World War II aus you see on the pictures (klick to enlarge).

Additionally there are several vehicles and planes of younger age: A Marder II APC prototype, a Leopard I MBT, Lepard II MBT prototype, a french Mirage, a F107 Starfighter, a F4 Phantom, a Hind and some other stuff. Even a gun turret of a Navy ship is presented in Koblenz. Just check the (German) Wikipedia page for more information (link 1, link 2). Unfortunately some of the most interesting WW II tanks were absent for repair or maintenance: Panther, StuG III and Jagdpanther.

The upper floors are filled with more guns and an incredible number of small arms, uniforms and equipment. Again it's too much stuff to mention each item here. Nearly every German Weapon of WW II is displayed there and a lot of technical equipment of the last century: Wireless sets, Radar equipment, Night Vision devices etc. In Addition there are several displays with uniforms of Prussian Forces before WW I, German forces during WW I and WW II as well as some modern uniforms of western and eastern armies. Because the light wasn't ideal I took only a few photos there. Nothing special...
A modified 35mm shell which was made a gift to wearers of the Iron Cross with diamonds. It's fance name was "Kopfzerbrecher" ("Head Breaker").

After about four hours we had seen all section of the collection. About six hundred photos and even more impressions richer we left the WTS and headed for a small bookstore nearby. It's an old-school second hand bookstore which is spezialized on military history. The opening hours are kind of unusual (Wednesday to Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m.) but the offering is great. Most book are German but some English ones and the complete Osprey ranges are offered as well. Additionally they have some nice modelling kits there. Definitely worth a visit! My wants were fulfilled with a box of Italeri's fast assembly Jeeps and therefore we headed satisfiedly back home.

Unfortunately our  return journey was kind of nerve-racking. The diner where we had lunch crowded out and traffic on the motorways was terrible. Somehow we git back to Bochum in the late afternoon and Nick and me spent the rest of the day building bocages and hills for my board. I'll post pictures of them later this week...

After all it was a really nice Saturday and a great trip. The collection is really worth a visit although it's conglomerate and narrow in some parts. It's rumoured that it shall move to another place soon. On the hand the Bundeswehr Military History Museum (link) in Dresden is an option but on the other hand the WTS might move to Ehrenbreitstein Fortress (link) within Koblenz as well. We'll see.

Closingly some more impressions from WTS Koblenz:
The extraordinary 128mm AA gun (link)
Very impressiv: 60cm granade for "Karl" (link)

Another exhibit which is rarely seen: Kommandogerät 40, an analog computer for targetting)
A SdKfz. 231 (but without antenne...) (link)