Sunday, August 29, 2010

How to Build Samurai Watercraft w/Jo Ann's Pirate Ships

Finished scratch-building three small watercraft called kobaya. Well, I did use the Jo-Ann's wooden pirate ship model for the base. The lateral strips on the deck are from cut popsicle sticks, and the prows are balsa wood that was easily cut and sanded. The upper side panels are from thin balsa wood that was steamed in a microwave to have them bent to fit the curvature of the ships' bows. I Google'd "how to bend wood" and voila!
These will work well for the Ichi no Tani scenario, as well as other samurai games (even against Mongols).
Once the glue dries, they'll get a stain and also the prows will get a little detail - black tips and maybe a stripe. They should also have some tassels at the end too.

I'm glad these are done - considering I almost slid off our rear patio roof today. I was trying to wash mold & dried pollen from the plexiglass roofing, and was clever enough to spray water on the area I needed to cross. I slipped and hit my jaw as my body went into a perfect spread-eagle on the roof. It was a helpless feeling sliding on the plexiglass; luckily I came to a stop a few feet from the edge. I'll never do that again.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Battle of Ichi no Tani - WIP + 3

Just returned from Jo-Ann Fabrics and picked up a couple of yards of blue suede (yeah - like the 70's band) which will represent the sea portion of the battlefield. Here is the terrain pretty much finished - not much - I folded the tan felt mat and safety-pinned it to the blue suede mat underneath.
Thanks to a recent TMP posting, I checked out Jo-Ann's wooden toys rack and grabbed the three remaining "Pirate Ship" model kits (sorry kids). I plan to rework them a little into kobaya boats. These will be allowed to land, and leave, the shoreline. The larger vessel will have to stay 12" from the shoreline. A hero on the larger vessel will be allowed to board the smaller kobaya and reach the shore (& vice versa).
I think the terrain is a decent compromise for this scenario. The image below is from an early 17th Century screen painting of the battle. Note that the walls of the encampment are anachronistic and maybe a bit too well-made, as the area of the fortress was basically a small strip of beach.

The next image is a film still from a Japanese TV miniseries about the Gempei War (actually about the hero Minamoto Yoshitsune). I'm not sure if it was filmed on the actually location (probably not), but it may be a more historically accurate representation of the Taira camp. Note the red banners denoting the Taira Clan.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Battle of Ichi no Tani - WIP + 2

Just another quick update on the progress for this game - finished the walls and gate for the Taira encampment near the sea. Still need to get the actual "sea" in front of the camp. This will likely be some type of cloth cut of the appropriate color. The Taira ship will sit somewhere on it to add some fire power in the form of archery from its deck. If I have time, I'd like to add some smaller boats for Taira troops to either head to shore or flee to sea with.

Here are a few shots of the possible set-up of the Taira encampment. My buddy has some bamboo fencing that can extend the enclosure towards the rear. On his advice, I'm not even going to attempt a cliff in the back of the camp. Those little hootches were bought from a Japanese novelty store at a local mall.
The rear edge of the table will be the base of the cliff, and the Minamoto will appear at that edge as if completing their movement down the cliff. The first play test is set for next weekend. Too many other commitments this weekend (i.e. a memorial service and finishing painting the trim on the 1:1 Urban Terrain).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

How to Build a Samurai Gate

Finished painting the base for the Taira ship - it's a bit greener in natural light. I plan to patch the openings in the deck with the thin balsa wood I have.
The gate is done too; just need to flock the base. The base has sheet metal on the bottom which adds stability to the piece. Several photos from different angles and also with a TAG figure for scale. The doors swing open easily, but not loosely.

How to Build a Samurai Gate w/Tower

Just a quick update of this project - which I will see through! Finished enough wall sections for the majority of the Taira camp. I ended up redoing the original two sections to have the vertical boards closer together - actually touching. This looked better - confirmed by my wife who's my best critic - totally (brutally?) honest. I'm almost done with the main gate - just need to add a roof. The gates themselves open and close - using dowels to turn on. The larger blocks of wood are balsa, so very easy to work with.
Added lateral supports for the roof. The top beam is a chopstick. I have some super thin balsa (the type for airplanes) that I'll try to cut as roofing tile - using the method from the old WAB book "how to" for Roman buildings.
Well the balsa wood idea didn't pan out - should've expected the thing to split when I cut the "V's" out. Switched to strips from a Manila folder - much better & easier. Here there are on one side of the roof.
I also slapped some acrylic caulk onto the base for the Taira ship. I needed to do this to make sure the area where the ship sits into the cut-out base was not left too apparent. The caulking was put on similar to how a cake maker would do frosting - I suppose. It supposed to represent the wake from the vessel moving and also the oars splashing into the water. Looks pretty good - just need to paint the water and seal it with a gloss coat.
The ship can be removed from the base. A sheet of plasticard was glued to the bottom of the foamcore to not only "catch" the ship, but also to help stiffen the foamcore in case it might warp with the silicon and painting.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Truants Game Day, 8/20/10 - Napoleonic Fast Play

So my buddy Adrian & I managed to pull off a decent Napoleonics game using fast-play rules we developed last Friday. Since the sagacious Truants who participated all said they had a good time with them, I feel relieved. Most of the gamers had decades of experience and offered some great ideas, and possible tweaks to the rules. Of course, we appreciated their insight - and were expecting this since this is the first game we used the rules. The one thing we decided (just last night) was to add a saving throw for cover instead of the earlier rule to decrease dice to the shooters. Actually this is what I had initially wanted, but...oh, well, I'm just happy its back. There was a lot of discussion after the game about morale checks and leader influence - but nothing earth-shattering as the spirit of the rules are for fast-play, convention players. Since the rules are so simple, and the players so experienced, I managed to snap a few pictures - most came out okay - here they are:
We called the game after several turns; which incidentally were started by the side determined by die rolls at the top of each turn, instead of the I Go - You Go  method. This game was a hard one to call - the British had their left flank in control - all of their Rifles and most of the Highlanders were intact. They had also managed to decimate the French Cavalry - both heavy & light units. The center of the battlefield was looking like a sure French victory - the French Light Infantry having eliminated the units of British Infantry there. The British right - which started out with a Rifle unit and Spanish Guerrillas occupying the town, was pretty much now in French control. Although, right outside of the town, there were a good amount of British infantry facing a small French artillery battery. Considering the British not having any artillery nor cavalry makes me really want to add a horse artillery unit to their side. It was a pretty balanced game though; and the French cavalry could have possibly had a greater impact.

In any case, there is one last Truants game next Friday, before we all head "back to school" - literally, as two of the members are educators. Unfortunately, I won't be able to make the last game as I have to go to a graveside memorial service for a relative. I'm sure it'll be a great last game too - Kevin Smyth is hosting another ACW naval game - I really like those a lot. Well, I'll be otherwise focusing on the Samurai game we're hosting next month. We plan on adapting the rules we used today to that game too!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Battle of Ichi no Tani - WIP

Completed the three Taira watch towers for the scenario. Stained them and the Taira ship with Mini Wax. Some TAG guys manning the towers for scale.
After prowling ebay and miniature companies for walls, I decided to try my hand at scratch-building wooden barricades for the Taira camp.  I used popsicle sticks cut in thinner strips for the siding - 50mm for the taller ones, and 40mm for the lower ones. Chopsticks are at the ends to place onto a base. These will also get the stain treatment. I'll build several more, but probably not enough for a full enclosure of the camp.
Since the Taira fled the capital and found refuge on this beachhead, I don't think they had time to construct anything elaborate. Also, this Japanese mini-series shows the Taira in a camp-like setting with very basic wooden structures - and no real perimeter defense. Of course, for the actors' and horses' sakes, the descent from the actual sheer cliffs behind the camp is only dramatized.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Samurai Ship Conversion - WIP

Actually it's a Korean P'anokson type of ship model that I bought when I was stationed in Korea a few years ago. Now I wish I bought a couple more - and different types. Anyway, it's probably 1/150th scale, but after removing the sail and tower, it'll pass as a Japanese ship of the period. In fact, the construction of the Japanese ships of the period were based on Korean and Chinese examples.

A Curteys and a few TAG figures on the deck to show the scale.
I may stain the deck and the lower portion of the hull a darker color. The darker stain may disguise the cut outs for the sails and tower a bit. Also, I may use the Taira butterfly mon on the shields on the deck.

The foamcore base has been cut out to allow the ship to sit more at a waterline. I plan to add some "whitewash/foam" around the oars, bow and trailing the stern with silicone acrylic caulking.
Here's a quick (& sloppy) diagram of how the battlefield may look like. I plan to use a 5 X 6' table for this. I can't really draw by dragging a mouse.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Samurai Watch Towers -WIP

Looking for a skirmish scenario for my Heian samurai, it looks like the Battle of Ichi no Tani may be the most interesting. It was fought on a beachhead; actually, the Taira Clan's stronghold - as they were famous seafarers and pirate hunters. Their stronghold was at the base of a steep cliff, which they thought no enemy could scale down from. Unfortunately for the Taira, their age old enemy, the Minamoto did just that. In a three-pronged attack, they took the Taira by surprise. The Taira had their fleet in the bay adjacent their stronghold, and any that weren't killed or captured outright fled with their ships. This of course was a short lived escape as the Taira were exterminated in the very next battle of Dan no ura in the Shiminoseki Strait.

My quest for suitable terrain begins for this scenarior. In addition to several nice thatched roof buildings, I also have a model ship that can be used as a firing platform for archers. Perusing the usual sites for a proper gate and walls, I came across this nice watch tower from Scheltrum Miniatures.
Although fairly inexpensive, I decided to try building some with some wooden chopsticks that come with instant ramyen (noodles). While at the commissary today, my wife grabbed a bunch of these wooden utensils sans the noodles. Here's what I came up with in a few minutes; the trickiest part was getting all the sides together. I guess if I had waited for the glue to dry it would've helped. I'll try to be more patient on the next ones; probably will end up with three.
That's a Curteys samurai in front of it for scale. "Planks" from popsicle sticks will be added to the to deck and sides - hopefully similarly to the Scheltrum model.

Slapped on a few more sticks and voila - it's done. The TAG archer with a 7/8" washer fits on the deck with room to spare. Okay, so it doesn't look quite like the Scheltrum one, but good enough for the Taira Clan.
The plan is to use the Duel & Raid rules from the Warhammer Siege and Conquest supplement.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

1:1 Urban Terrain Touch Up

Having such a great time playtesting a Napoleonics game yesterday, I had to pay for my sins by painting some 1:1 Urban Terrain. Mostly repainting trim; which made me think how "Old School" this is. If this were vinyl siding, this time-consuming, and somewhat awkward, task would be negated. Next time, I might try the Dip method.
Anyway, this gets me a pass to get some dim sum and roast duck later today.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Napoleonic Skirmish Playtest - 8/13/10

Just a few photos of the forces prior to starting a playtest today:
It will be based loosely on Fuentes de Onoro; fought between Wellington and Massena. Here's a little map of the battle.
Well, my buddy Adrian and I hashed out some very decent fast-play rules today during our playtest for a quasi-skirmish Napoleonic game. Basically all hits and kills (for both firing and melee) are made with 6's using D6's. No saving throws (although this can be incorporated later if needed). Modifications are done by adding or subtracting die; either actual die or by percentages. For instance, for a veteran unit firing into hard cover, all figures in the unit get a D6 each if firing in line (8 figures minimum, and two ranks) - then lose 50% of dice for the hard cover, but get back a die for being veterans. Roll, and any 6's are kills - outright. Cannon get 2 dice per crewman up to 48" - starting out with 5 crew. For canister up to 12" they get 50% added to the roll - 10 + 5. They lose die according to number of crewman killed, until no crew left. Cavalry can fire carbines up to 18" if they have them, but lose 50% of their dice if they moved in the same turn. They can move up to 18". Infantry move 8" in the open in column or skirmish order, and 4" in rough. In line formation they move 4" in the open and 2" in the rough. Changing from line, column or square is free. Cannon firing into squares get 50% more dice. Incidentally, adding or subtracting percentages is done consecutively; for instance if you lose 50% for firing into hard cover and also 50% for moving - you could start with 10 dice, lose 5 for the hard cover, and then 2 more (always rounding up) for the movement; then if you had a plus die modifier (as veterans) you'd then add the die - ending up with 4 dice. It worked well and we'll see how well the old codger Truants will take to it next Friday. Here are some pictures of the figures we used - we didn't use half of the forces - two other French cavalry and infantry units, and two British infantry units.
Melee is decided by who ever has more kills - losers fall back automatically; infantry 4" and in a semi-column formation (not line), and cavalry 8". No morale tests, and able to continue in the next turn basically unchecked. A morale test could be added later if wanted; but since we want to keep this fast-paced, we'll see what happens next Friday with the Truants.