16 January 2011

What's cooking this week in the Grand Duchy of Stollen?

Another great cover illustration by Phil, which so far have been based on those that grace the pages of Charge! Or, How to Play War Games.

A fair amount has been going on here in Stollen Central during the past week as things have settled down following the month of Christmas and New Year's celebrations in which we indulge here in the Grand Duchy. First, the second issue of volume one of The Classic Wargamer's Journal was published and sent out to subscribers in the last few days from what I undestand. Among other articles, it features an opinionated piece by yours truly along with a challenge to readers. Now, I don't want to give away anything, so you'll just have to wait and read the article yourself. . . or contact Phil Olley via his Classic Wargaming blog about a subscription if you have not done so already. Suffice to say, I identify a very real problem facing lots of wargamers today and offer suggestions about how to cope with it productively. You be the judge.

A West Prussian farm on which I based my structure below.

Next, I spent a few evenings painting and putting the finishing touches on a couple of model structures meant to represent a combination farmhouse-barn in the former East Prussia. You might vaguely recall a post from last January (Click Here), which featured three or four such farms in present-day Poland and Lithuania. Since the Grand Duchy of Stollen and its environs are somewhere just to the northeast of Frederick's Prussia, it seemed like a good idea to add a couple of farm buildings that actually look like what you might still see in the countryside in that part of Europe. . . which brings us to the finished structure below.

The finished complex, based on the above formerly West Prussian farm, defended by a handful of brave Irish grenzers in the face of a Stollenian assualt by the Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own) Grenadiers.

Look closely, and you'll see that the above farm really consists of two structures, butted up next to each other. The outter shells were constructed of heavy card (scavanged from the backs of old writing pads) along with a bit of balsa for the chimneys. The shells cover balsa and card ruins, each of which holds eight figures, a half-company of infantry according to the rules laid out in Charge! The paints used to finish the model were cheap acrylics from the local craft store (Michael's): burnt sienna, oxide red, bamboo, and a tiny bit of gray and black to tone down the browns and add some visual interest. The fachwerk on the end gables was done with a black Sharpie marker and metal ruler. Oh, and the wooden posts, holding up the overhang are matchsticks, again from the local craft store, which were cut to length and correct angle with a tiny model maker's mitre box and saw that dear ol' Mom bought for me about 15 years ago.

The model (Can I really use that word?) turned out far better than expected. I wrestled with the problem of how to render the half-timbered fachwerk for about a week before finally getting down to business and doing it in the easiest, least time-consuming way, and I am rather pleased with the results. Not up to the same highly detailed modelling standard of the late Ian Weekley, of course, or the more recent work of Herb Gundt, but the structure looks like what it is supposed to be, an old farm complex somewhere in a formerly German corner of northeastern Europe.

Here is the second batch of Holger Eriksson Swedish dragoons with the first twelve all finished in the background.

Third, work has continued slowly on the next batch of Holger Eriksson cavalry. You can see where we stand as of last night from the photograph above. As with the first dozen figures, I have applied thinned alkyd oils, which were next wiped off with a paper towel, leaving highlights on the raised areas of the figures. The highlights are provided by the various colors of Humbrol enamel (glossy) undercoats that are the intermediary layer of color between the black basecoat and the thinned oil glazes. Admittedly, the horses look pretty awful at this early point in the painting game, but by the time you apply the white markings, touch up the manes/tails, as well as the horse furniture -- not to mention painting the flesh and uniforms of the officers and troopers -- they smarten up appreciably.

Long-time visitors to the Grand Duchy of Stollen blog will know that this is a completely new way of tackling horses for me, an activity I liken to watching grass grow. It still feels awkward, but I like the results an awful lot. So, I doubt that I'll return to my old way of painting mounted units, which involved black basecoats and then various browns applied carefully with a fairly small brush, usually a #2 round, to avoid spoiling the already black reins and other assorted harnesses. THAT way always took forever! The new method, which is rather charmingly old school, is noticeably faster, especially if you are organized and have everything you might need close at hand. I heartily recommend trying what I am calling the 'Gilder-Preece Method' of painting horses for your own mounted units when you next settle down to paint a bunch of horses. Go on! You know you want to.

What else? Oh, yes. . . Word has it that the Electorate of Zichenau has suddenly and inexplicably sent an expeditionary force, under the notorious French mercenary-adventurer General Phillipe de Latte, into the neighboring Grand Duchy of Stollen -- in the dead of winter -- to establish a foothold for a planned spring campaign. The advance guard of said expeditionary force is at present spread thinly in and around the small town of Schpeckbova, a coach stop of little importance, in an isolated valley of extreme southwestern Stollen. Preliminary skirmishing has been reported while General von Tschatschke -- The Flamboyant Silesian -- hastily assembles a formation of available troops outside the Stollenian capital Krankenstadt, to meet and expel the aggressors. Stay tuned for further developments.

A photo of a young and rather dashing Peter Young in uniform, taken presumably during The 1939-45 War.

Finally, inspired by a series of photographs in a recently acquired old issue of Miniature Wargames from 1982 or '83 -- which shows photographs of wargaming personalities like Peter Gilder, Stuart Asquith, Phil Robinson, Paul and Theresa Bailey, and Phil Barker -- I did an image search on the web, just out of curiosity, to see what photographs I might be able to turn up of some earlier notables in the hobby. Sadly, I have not yet been able to find a picture of Lieutenant-Colonel James Lawford, but take a look at the others shown here. Ok, back to the saltmines. . . er, uh, um. . . the painting table. See you in a week or so.

Here's the late Charles Grant Sr., surrounded, appropriately enough, by images of his famous Spencer Smith figures.

Here is Mr. Grant again, this time with his son, noted current wargaming author Charles S. Grant, in their wargaming room, studying a map, presumably of their campaign area. . . the border area between the Grand Duchy of Lorraine and the Vereinigte Freie Staedte.

Last but not least, here is an image of the young Donald Featerstone, again taken during the Second World War, in the uniform of his tank regiment. You can see the same fire and penetrating gaze in his eyes today, all these decades later. Funny how people never lose that although age takes its toll in other ways.


Fitz-Badger said...

The farmhouse looks great and quite in keeping with the style of your other buildings. Making it as 2 pieces is a great idea, too. I assume each part could be used on its own?

Stokes Schwartz said...

Thanks Fitz! Yes, the two "buildings" can be separated and used as distinct structures, say across a farmyard from one another.

Best Regards,


Grimsby Mariner said...

I like the farm very old school in design and delivery.
Your article is great as well. Aimed at the gunners amongst us (I'm gunna do this and I'm gunna do that) but I think we can all see something of ourselves in the article.

Stokes Schwartz said...

Thank you, Paul. Yep, as I mentioned, I wrote that with more than a pinch of self-realization and bitter self-recognition! ;-) I think along these same lines everytime I think about launching into a mid-19th century project.

Best Regards,


Conrad Kinch said...

Glad to hear the campaigning season is on again. Nice job on the houses, I have a terrible habit of throwing down any old thing without much regard to the architecture.

Bluebear Jeff said...

Perhaps we should bring to your attention the fact that our information is that there has been considerable communication between the Electorate of Zichenau and the most vile Kingdom of Stagonia.

Do not commit all of your forces against Zichenau and leave the rest of your Grand Duchy open to the foul vileness of Koenig Ludwig the Demented.

-- Jeff of Saxe-Bearstein

PS, the farmouse looks splendid indeed.

A J said...

The farmhouse looks great, and making it in two parts gives it versatility.


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