Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My fluffy grass matt

I have had a few request about how I made my latest mat. I always wanted a matt that I could unroll and ta.da: there was most of the work done. I wanted thing like roads to be integral to the matt, but I also wanted to the grass to be, well for want of a better word 'fluffy'.

There is a section of my club that things all games should be played on 120mm x 90mm or 4'x3'. Personally, I think this is because we are getting old and can't be bothered standing up to move toy soldiers around. But this size is used by Studio Tomahawk rules like Condo and Saga, so this is the size I went for.

So, here is the mat in question posing as Australia

 And here it is in India

The matt is A Zephyr Vinyl table cover made in Australia. The picture below shows the vinyl side

I do actually us this side for some games (see below)

However the other side has a fabric backing, and this is the side I used. Other people have made mats using drop sheets, but I think the vinyl baking makes the mat much stronger.

In the beginning I sketched out the roads in caulk

This is what I used.

With one layer you can still see the texture of the fabric, so I added a few very thin layers. I was trying to economise, so I didn't cover the whole mat in caulk. That was huge mistake as later you could see white bits between the flock.

I tried adding some sand for texture, but I stopped as I thought the abrasiveness of the sand would wear out the caulk as it got rolled up. Instead I just ragged the caulk with an old t-shirt as it was drying which gave me a texture I liked.

I used clay kitty litter for the 'rocks' as I thought the kitty litter would absorb the caulk and be more durable. So far that has proved to the case.

The caulk dried really quickly. Next I pained on PVA glue mixed with water and sprinkled three tones of flock in patches. The flock dries to be very fluffy, but not very durable.

So I splayed a water PVA mix over the top once it had dried. I found that the more PVA you spray, the flatter the flock becomes.

So I sprayed some areas really flat to create stable areas for my buildings. I also dry brushed the caulk at this stage to bring out the texture.

That was it. The project would have taken one whole Saturday if I had covered the whole mat in caulk. As it is I spent a few evenings filling in all the tiny white gaps. A lesson learned.

My last lesson, and I can't stress this enough, is you must stop your cat dancing on the flock while it is drying. The cat has been punished and the mat repaired.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The battle of Parramatta Road 1816

More of my knowledge about 19th century warfare comes from watching movie matinees than I would care to admit.

Typically, in these movies, a company/platoon/troop wanders off into the wilderness, threatened as much by the conflict between the handsome commanders (and a femme fatale), as by the dogged, skillful and honourable tribesmen fighting for freedom.

Now there are some skirmish rules I like, Sharpe Practice and The Men Who Would Be Kings to name two. In my head though, the 'groups, in these rules act like companies.

In the movies, the impossibly handsome commander growls: "Corporal o'Brian, take two men and sout that gully". Every time the two men get tomahawked, while Corporal o'Brian staggers back to the main body, to be ministered to by the "love interest". Perhaps the impossibly handsome commander should have sent five men and Sergeant Smith.

In my search for a set of rules that fits this niche I bought "Smooth and Rifled" and played the big version. To be honest my opponents found controlling several units overwhelming, and rules in English are a bit hard to understand.

Still, there were things I really liked:
  1. A man could act as an individual, or as part of a group using the same mechanisms.
  2. Fire can be by crashing volleys, or by a popping individual fire
  3. The army lists make different forces act quite differently.
The author of Smooth and Rifled, Lorenzo Sartori said that  he wanted to do a second edition and could I help. Therefore I decided to play the medium version of the game again.

My friend, who you might know as "Happy Wander" latest obsession interest is the Australian Frontier Wars. Now, in Australia we envy overseas wargamers who get to play games that happened a few miles away. So I find the opportunity to game the local tribes fight against colonisation very interesting.

So we decided to try Smooth and Rifled (with quite a few rules amendments).

The game is set at Cleland's Farm on a bend of Parramatta Road  which runs westwards from Sydney in 1816. A section of the Rum Corps has been detailed to keep the road clear of some combative elements of the Eora tribe.

The main body  comes marching up the road preceded by Private Jonno Smith who sees trouble behind every ghost gum.

Meanwhile Sergeant Parr select four of the less inebriated privates to scout the bush to the south of the road. 

The thick bush means that Parr's detachment losses contact with the column.

While the main body swings on down the road.

Private Smith thinks he sees something, nah, its just a kan-ga-roo

 Wrong! Angry warriors rise silently out of the thick bush.

One warrior dashes forward and throws a spear into poor Private Smith

The commotion in the bush stops the regular troops in their tracks

While a cloud of spears from between the gum trees knocks two off their feet.

Overcoming their shock, the regulars deploy into line, poke their heads into the bushes and open fire. Skippy looks on disapprovingly.

A frantic exchange of musket balls and spears develops

But the tribesmen melt back into the bush like ghosts.

 To the South Sergeant Parr thinks he spots a Wombat

Instead spears fly out of nowhere.

A frantic hand to hand struggle in the bush starts

But all of Parr's men are soon captured.

The yells from the bush to the front and rear is more than the Rum Corp can stand. They break and don't stop running till they get back to Sydney.

Which was just as well as there were nine more warriors in farmer Cleland's back garden