Back to work …

Today was the first day back at work after the long summer holiday, and I was up at just after 6.00am – early but none too bright – in order to have my breakfast and get ready for my journey to work. For once the journey from my home on Shooters Hill to my workplace in Brockley took me less than thirty minutes, and by 7.50am I was sat at my desk trying to make sense of the emails that had accumulated over the six weeks I have been away.

After morning briefing – which, as usual, was far from brief – we had Faculty meetings, then a short break, then another Faculty meeting (because something was missed out during the first one!), and then spent the rest of the day signing students on to their courses.

The latter went quite slowly at first, and then it became apparent that not all the students had been sent the letter that told them that today was the day they had to come in to sign up … so it was back to the office to make some rather quick ‘phone calls to ‘remind’ students to come in. As a result, we were rushed off our feet for most of the afternoon … just at the time the computer system decided it was going to slow down. The electronic course registration system almost – but not quite – ground to a halt … and many of us ended up working past our proper finishing time to clear the backlog.

As a result of this somewhat frustrating day, when I got home I felt in no mood to do much except sit and vegetate in front of the TV … but now that I have had time to recover I am going to go and prepare some hexed terrain tiles for painting. I might was well make sure that I do something productive today … it will help me feel better about having to go back to work!


The new ‘Frontier’: First draft ready

I have just finished the first draft of my latest version of Joseph Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ wargame rules … although the end result is more a melding of his ‘Musket’ Period and ‘Frontier’ wargames rules.

First and foremost, I have replaced the term ‘Basic Unit’ with the word ‘stand’, as the latter is more easily understood by most wargamers. I have also:

  • Used the ‘Turn Sequence’, ‘Artillery’, ‘Movement’, and ‘Battle’ sections from the ‘Frontier’ wargames rules almost unchanged, although the ‘Artillery’ section is now entitled ‘Artillery Fire’ and the ‘Battle’ section has been renamed ‘Close Combat’.
  • Added a new section called ‘Infantry, Cavalry, and Machine Gun Fire’. This uses similar game mechanisms to those used in the ‘Artillery Fire’ section for determining the effectiveness of hits on enemy stands.
  • Renamed the ‘Battle Power’ rating from the ‘Frontier’ wargames rules as ‘Close Combat Power’ and replaced the original ‘Battle Power’ ratings with the ‘Melee Power’ values from the ‘Musket’ Period wargames rules.
  • Generally tidied up the wording of the various sections in the wargames rules in order to make the ‘style’ more consistent.

This process has taken me somewhat longer than I had expected, but I now have a working draft that I can play-test. I hope that this will take place sometime within the next week or so, but as I go back to work tomorrow – and as yet do not have my teaching timetable – I am unable to plan what I will be able to do with my time too far in advance.


Why flock … Why bother?

It was back in June 2009 that I first wrote about using Heroscape hexed terrain, and I extolled the virtues of improving their look by painting and flocking the hexed terrain tiles that came with the game. At the time I promised to write a ‘How to’ blog entry, and recently I finally managed to get around to it.

I also wrote about problems that I had had getting flock that matched the colour that I had already used on previous batches of hexed terrain tiles, and this led to several kind offers of help, for which I am very grateful. … and then I was asked – by email – why I was bothering to flock the hexed terrain tiles. My answer that I have always done it really does not hold up to serious scrutiny … so I put together some painted but unflocked hexed terrain tiles … and realised that they did not actually need flocking.

Since then I have thought about what I am going to do next, and my decision is to just paint the next batch and see how I get on with them. If, after I have used them, I think that they need flocking, I will flock them; if I think that they are all right as they are, they will remain unflocked.

As Aleksandr Orlov would say … ‘Simples!’


The new ‘Frontier’

Whilst I was modifying the batch of Heroscape™ hexed terrain I described in my ‘How to‘ blog entry, I was also thinking about the modifications I will need to make to Morschauser’s ‘Frontier’ wargames rules so that they fit my requirements.

Having read the feedback and ideas readers sent me, and having re-read – yet again – the relevant magazine article that described the ‘Frontier’ wargame rules and the chapter on ‘Musket’ Period wargames rules in Morschauser’s book, I have come to the conclusion that what I actually need to do is to meld the two sets of rules together. In other words, use the combat mechanisms from the ‘Musket’ Period wargames rules (but with Machine Guns equating to Artillery firing Grape Shot) with the turn sequence from the ‘Frontier’ wargames rules (i.e. with Artillery firing before either side moves). The rules are already quite similar, so the work required to meld the two together should not be too arduous.

I hope to begin work on this process later today or tomorrow morning, and will keep readers up-to-date with developments as they happen.


Why flock?

Since my blog entry about how to modify Heroscape™ hexed terrain, I have had an email that asked me why I bothered to flock the hexes after I had painted them. My answer was:

I DON’T KNOW WHY; I JUST DO, AND ALWAYS HAVE DONE.
So I thought about it … and then I put some of the painted (but as yet unflocked) hexed terrain tiles together and voila!

… they don’t look too bad unflocked. In fact, the process of creating painted and unflocked hexed terrain tiles would be a lot quicker than flocked ones, and the figures would stand up just as well – if not better – on the unflocked hexed terrain tiles …

This is going to take a bit of thinking about …


How to modify Heroscape™ hexed terrain

In the past I have modified quite a lot of Heroscape™ hexed terrain by painting and flocking it. The following ‘How to’ blog entry explains how I did this.

Materials
The materials I used included:

  • Heroscape™ hexed terrain tiles
  • Acrylic paint (I used Games Workshop™ Graveyard Earth and Goblin Green in the following examples)
  • Flock (I used Dark Meadow Green [Scatter No. 11] supplied by Javis “Countryside” Scenics, of Stockport)
  • White PVA glue (I used Evo-Stik Wood Adhesive)
  • Various paintbrushes

Step 1
The first step is to wash the Heroscape™ hexed terrain tiles in warm soapy water to remove and grease or dirt. They should then be rinsed in clean, warm water, and allowed to dry.

Step 2
I then paint the sides of the hexed terrain tiles. I usually stack them in piles of seven, this being a thick enough pile for me to hold comfortably between my first finger and thumb whilst I apply the paint. (Incidentally, seven is also the number of hexed terrain tiles I can stack and store in my storage system)

The paint is actually thinned down and not used ‘as it comes’ from the paint pot. I find that a small, flat brush is an excellent tool for this task.

The point of painting the sides of the hexed terrain tiles is to dull the natural shine of the plastic, and too thick a coat of paint will stop the hexed terrain tiles locking together.

For this example I used thinned Games Workshop™ Graveyard Earth on the sides of the hexed terrain tiles.

Step 3
After the paint on the side of the hexed terrain tiles has dried they can be separated and the tops can be painted.

This is best done by painting the edge of each hexed terrain tile first, making sure that not too much paint goes over the edge of the hexed terrain tile as this will also make it difficult to lock the hexed terrain tiles together. I find that a small, flat brush is also an excellent tool for this task. I used Games Workshop™ Goblin Green to paint the top of each hexed terrain tile.

Once the edges are painted, the centre of the hexed terrain tile can also be painted. The paint is then allowed to dry, and any areas that have not been covered with sufficient paint can be touched up.

Step 4
Once the paint is thoroughly dry, the flock can be glued to the raised area on top of the hexed terrain tile.

I find that the best way to do this is to start by laying a bead or edge of white glue around the edge of the raised area on the hexed terrain tile with a thin paintbrush …

… and then ‘filling in’ the middle section.

Step 5
As soon as the glue has been applied I place the hexed terrain tile in a shallow cardboard tray (the bottom half of a model kit box is ideal for this) and tip a generous amount of flock onto the hexed terrain tile, making sure that all the glued-covered surface has a thick layer of flock on it.

I leave the hexed terrain tile in situ for a minute or so, and then gently lift it out so that my fingers do not touch the area that was covered in glue. I then gently tip the hexed terrain tile over so that any excess flock falls back into the shallow tray.

The hexed terrain tile is then placed to one side and the glue is left to dry for at least four hours. The flock will look quite light at this stage, but as the glue dries it becomes transparent and the flock regains its original colour.


Airsoft

In between watching the third day of the Fourth Test Match between England and Pakistan and modifying some Heroscape™ hexed terrain (and photographing each state of the process for a ‘How to’ blog entry I will write later this weekend), I have been sorting out my airsoft gear.

For those of you who don’t know what airsoft is, Wikipedia defines it as ‘primarily a recreational activity with replica firearms that shoot plastic BBs that are often used for personal collection, gaming (similar to paintball), or professional training purposes (military simulations, a.k.a. MilSim, and police training exercises). A primary difference between airsoft guns and BB guns is that an airsoft gun uses a 6mm or 8mm plastic pellet and has a muzzle velocity of typically less than 180 meters per second (600 feet); which is generally considered safe when used in a controlled environment and with safety equipment like protective eyewear.

I became interested in airsoft when I found a shop in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, selling a lot of cheap ‘springer’ (i.e. spring powered, single-shot) airsoft guns a few weeks before a COW (Conference of Wargamers) some years ago. I took the guns along, where we played a few, impromptu games with them … and that is how the whole thing started.

Since then, airsoft sessions have been a part of most COWs, and they have actually served a very practical purpose in showing wargamers who have not had much or any military training how important ‘battle drills’ and cover – however sparse or small it may be – are on the battlefield.

Would you read a blog written by this man?
This photograph was taken during an airsoft session held some years ago during February (hence the very necessary woollen gloves!). Gloves, thick clothing and – most importantly – eye and face protection are essential safety equipment. The gun I am carrying is an AK47 AEG (Automatic Electric Gun) made by CYMA, and the ammo pouch is a genuine ex-Yugoslav Army item; I know, because when I bought it there were four empty AK47 magazines (still in their greased paper wrappers) inside it!

Those cheap guns are long gone … but over the years (and before the Violent Criminal Reduction Act came into force; this Act makes the buying and selling of airsoft guns in the UK much more restricted than it previously was) I acquired quite a collection of guns. These need fairly regular maintenance and checking, and today was a day when I had enough time – and space – to do it.

I have not had the opportunity over the past years or so to take part in any airsoft battles, but one of the leading retailers recently opened a CQB (Close Quarter Battle) venue less than three miles for where I live, and hopefully I might be able to go along there soon and take part in an evening session.