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Showing posts from February, 2007

A Tree Grows in Stollen

Many "birch" trees actually. Beleive it or not, these 4" high trees (on the left in the photograph) are sold as cake decorations by the Oasis Supply Comapny of Bensalem, Pensylvania, USA -- -- 72 per bag for the insane price of US$8.95! Yes, you heard right. US$8.95! As you see in the photo, they work fine with the Zvezda fir trees (on the right), so large copses and forests in Stollen and Zichenau are now possible. Eventually, I will fashion various irregulalrly shaped bases and affix several trees to each. These can then be arranged singly or in groups to form small or LARGE wooded areas, representing firs, birches, aspens, or similar kinds of vegetation. Old School definitely, but for the price, who cares? I like them. The new trees actually remind me of those pictures in the illustrations contained within H.G. Wells' wonderful Little Wars . Do you know the one in particular I mean? The sketch of Wells and another guy moving their

Colonel Von Cranz vs. Oberfeldwebel Klatschen

"The Duel" Dawn -- February 28, 1768 Late February in The Grand Duchy of Stollen is never pretty. Cold with patchy, icy snow still on the ground and a biting wind blowing in off the Gulf of Riga . Springtime always seems so far away. Too far away. Still, there was more important business to attend to that morning. Two small groups of men faced each other that day in a minor square in the capital city of Hissig , near the edge of town. One consisted of several NCOs, members of the Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own) Grenadiers. The others were officers from the 4th (Trakehnen Dragoons). They had assembled to witness a duel about to take place and provide support for their respective leaders -- Oberfeldwebel Klatschen (grenadiers) and Colonel Von Cranz (dragoons)! The precise reasons for the duel have been lost to history. They were hazy enough that morning in February 1768 and have not become any clearer during the intervening 239 years. Some alleged exchange be

Dragoons Just About There

No painting this evening as the Grand Duchess Sonja and I are heading to a movie after supper. But, here's a photo taken yesterday evening of the regiment in question. Just a couple more minor things to take care of, and then they are ready for the protective coat of Future floor polish and a place of honor -- the senior most regiment of Stollen's cavalry, commanded by that dastardly cad Colonel Von Cranz. Rumor has it that a rivalry of sorts exists between Oberfeldwebel Klatschen and Von Cranz. Indeed, on more than one occasion, the two have crossed paths. But for all of his arrogant, peevish bluster, Von Cranz knows little about war, personal combat, or honor. Whenever the two meet, Von Cranz inevitably has his ears boxed soundly by the grizzled Oberfeldwebel. And what the young colonel knows about campaigning wouldn't even be a drop in the coffee stein of knowledge that Klatschen has aquired in his years of service to Stollen. And when will the grenadier next take V

RSM's Ready to Go!

Spent a pleasant 90 minutes finishing the dragoon regiment's horses earlier this evening. The white markings will follow in a couple of days after the oil-based horse coats are all dry on Squadron C. Then the Future acrylic floor polish -- can't wait to see how the dragoons look once they're all glossy! Afterwards, I glued the first batch of RSM grenadiers to their temporary 1" cardboard squares. Here's the first company along with the regimental staff, which includes a MiniFig 25mm Prussian standard bearer, one of half a dozen I ordered from Tom Dye at GFI last fall. The Grand Duchess Sonja included an RSM ensign as part of her fabulous Christmas gift to me two months ago, but he lacks a flag pole, being cast with open hands. Until I track down some florists' or piano wire and miniature finials, I'll substitue the MiniFig with a clear conscience. Oberfeldwebel Klatschen remains on leave since he is still attached to his temporary painting base -- an

Some Good Bedtime Reading!

Nothing much earth shattering happening in the Grand Duchy of Stollen today. The Grand Duchess Sonja has choral practice this evening, so. . . . I have four last horses to finish this evening before setting the 4th (Trakehner) Dragoons to one side for a couple of days. I'll probably fix the first batch of 24 RSM grenadiers to temporary painting bases afterwards. These little gems have absolutely NO flash to remove. Can't remember that I've ever had figures like that before! On the literature front, I've got quite a bit to keep me busy -- Used copies of Donald Featherstone's War Game Campaigns (1970) and Advanced War Games (1969) arrived in the mail today from AbeBooks.Com. Terribly interesting they look too! Combined with the paperback anthology of Robert Louis Stevenson short stories (including "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde") that I picked up at the bookstore yesterday afternoon, well, I don't know how I'll get any sleep at

Reply to Hesse-Engelburg

To: Herr Ludwig Von Strasser, Social Secretary for Thursdays Hesse-Engelburg February 24, 1768 My Dear Herr Von Strasser, Thank you for your correspondence of late and curiosity about financial and economic matters in The Grand Duchy of Stollen. The currency of The Grand Duchy is the Silver Mark, tied closely to the currency in neighboring Prussia. The breakdown of currency sub-units looks like this: 1 Silver Mark = 14 Thaler = 24 Groschen (3 Polish Gulden) = 60 Schillings = 360 Pfennigs; 1 Groschen = 3 Schillings = 18 Pfennigs; 1 Schilling = 6 Pfennigs. Although there are some minor differences in the Electorate of Zichenau, the arch enemy of our own Stollen, there is largely a one-to-one parity between the two currencies. The economies of Stollen and Zichenau are primarily agrarian (corn, grain, sugar beets, cabbage, and the recently introduced potato) with some timber and small cottage industries. Much like neighboring Prussia, Stollen has a respectable horse breeding industry. Th

4th (Trakehnen) Dragoons Inch Toward Completion

We've had a nasty ice storm here all afternoon today, so Sonja and I decided that the better part of valor was to remain at home and postpone our lazy Saturday trip to a nearby coffee house -- The Coffee Hound -- for some java and pleasant conversation. Instead, we stayed in our pajamas all day, and enjoyed fresh coffee, made by yours truly, with shortbreads at the kitchen table around 2PM. Otherwise, I've been hard at work today trying to finish the dragoons up before the end of February. Have been actively working on them, one squadron at a time, for about a month now, so I'm eager to wrap up work and move on to the RSM 95 figures. Anyway, tomorrow it's the brass sword hilts and scabbard tips followed by the reddish-brown Grumbacher "Light English Red" oil for the horses. I'll set these aside to dry for a few days while I start on the RSM grenadiers. You can just make them out in the left rear of this photo. Later, I'll return to apply the whit

And Introducing Oberfeldwebel Lebrecht Klatschen!

I also took a few minutes to finish up the first RSM 95 figure -- Oberfeldwebel (Regimental Sergeant Major) Lebrecht Klatschen of the Leib (Grand Duchess Sonja's Own) Grenadier Regiment at your service! He has a great deal of character, I think, as an R.S.M. should of course. Naturally, Sergeant Major Klatschen is extremely fond of fresh coffee, a good chat, and his clay pipe full of strong tobacco. Curious peasant girls aren't too shabby either from his point of view. Now, all I need to do is repeat this about 65 times. I've decided to paint the regiment by companies, so the initial batch will be the first company of 19 figures plus a five figure regimental staff, including a mounted colonel, standard bearer, and three different officers on foot. Stay tuned right here to see how they shape up!

What's the Attraction???

I've been pondering the attraction of imaginary countries, armies, uniforms, and campaigns during the last several days. It seems that increasingly many of us are doing something like this in their respective corners of the world. The latest person to succumb to the dark side is OSW member Andy Pattison, who wrote in his thread over at OSW that he too will go with BIG batallions and (very probably) rely on 15mm MiniFigs for the bulk of his troops. Bravo Andy! But I'm still left wondering, "Why?" What is it about this particular sub-branch of the wargaming hobby that grabs so many of us by the collar and apparently reinvigorates our efforts and interests? There must be a host of possible replies out there. For me, I think it goes back to when I played D&D in high school in the early 1980s (the Basic game, NOT Advanced D&D). As dungeon master (basically the person who designs and runs each gaming session/campaign), I always got a real kick out of developing fict

Ruins Almost Completed for Charles Grant/Phil Olley Inspired BUA's

Almost forgot. I purchased another piece of balsa wood Tuesday (I prefer it to foam core), following my dentist appointment. Well, I needed some kind of small reward for enduring the 35 minutes of discomfort and indignity, didn't I? Anyway, following my return home from work yesterday afternoon, I spent a couple of enjoyable hours before dinner working on the ruins for the final buildings, constructed during December and January. These now need to be painted, and I will add some small piles of cork ships in the corners, etc., but you get some idea of how things will look once done. I was even able to get the buildings to fit fairly tightly over the ruined bases, so I'm satisfied. Enjoy!

Regiment of Dragoons Nears Completion

In the next couple of nights, I hope to wrap up work on the 4th (Trakehnen) Dragoons ! Above are a few phtoos for your vieiwng pleasure: A birds-eye view of the entire regiment, a worms-eye view of the same, and a shot of Squadron C as they appear this morning. A few more details remain to paint, and I have some touch-ups in black on several of the troopers throughout the regiment -- mostly things like reins and scabbards. But they're not looking too bad, I think. While the last nine horses dry out (I use oils for those, you might recall) -- the final paintng step -- I'll start base coating the RSM grenadiers. I've begun painting one of them just to see how they progress, and I'm really pleased. Rapid, easy painting. A welcome change of pace from months of painting plastics! Anyway, to get cracking with the entire RSM-based unit is exciting, to say the least. The fourth shot above illustrates how this single figure is shaping up. I'll be away for a week in mid

A New Discovery -- The Duchy of Lagerburg

So here I was poking around The Society of Daisy discussion board a little while ago over a huge mug of coffee, and what do I spy? Another painter/collector/gamer using 1/72 Revell SYW figures for battles between imaginary countries -- Presenting Allen Mordica's Duchy of Lagerburg starring in The Seven Beers War!!! To view even more of Allen's fine work, join the Society of Daisy group at: Then, click on "Photos", then have a peek at the Duchy of Lagerburg photo album. Allen's painting work on his figures is very nice -- and he's amassed a whole bunch of 'em. Here's just one photograph to give you a taste of what's in store. By the way, The Society of Daisy is a discussion board dedicated to fictitious countries and imaginary armies for those of you who might not know of its exisitence already. If imaginary combatants and contentious compositie monarchs are your bag, I urge you to visit and join th

The Couple That Plays Together. . .

Sonja and I have been enjoying the extended holiday broguht on by the new 12" of snow here on Tuesday. Yesterday, we skied one of the local golf courses, which I returned today, to ski solo. The temperature was only about 10 degrees Fahrenheit, but the sun was out, and the wind was minimal, so once I got moving, things warmed up quickly. Here are a couple of new pictures from this particular jaunt. The top photo is simply a very pretty shot of our tracks from yesterday. To outdoorsy people, and especially winter sports enthusiasts, the shot says alot, I think. We might use it for a Christmas card next December. The bottom picture shows where the two of us fell in tandem at the bottom of a hill yesterday. I went down the hill first and, since the snow was deep at the bottom, lost my balance and sat down with a cushioned bump on the right side of the photo. I had trouble getting up again due to the snow accumulation at that spot. So, Sonja calls to me from the top of the hi

The Day After

Happy Valentine's Day! Well, the Earth is still turning it seems, and the worst is over. We had about 12" (30.5 cm) of snow here before it quit about 11PM last evening. It snowed for something like 17 hours straight . I have not witnessed a winter storm like that since my childhood/youth in southeastern Pennsylvania! And such snows were a regular winter occurance back then. Ah, the Golden Age as my wife says whenever I wax nostalgic Anyway, today is sunny and COLD with a high of about 14 degrees Fahrenheit. My college is closed again, so another free day for me (oh darn, the disappointment!) while Sonja's university is not opening until Noon. She must head in to lead a committee meeting, unfortunately, but late this afternoon, we're going to head out on the ol' Nordic skis again. Many other businesses and offices are closed today here in Bloomington-Normal, although in a bizzare twist of something or other, garbage collection is proceeding as scheduled!!!

A Little Snowy Painting

When school has been called off, and an old fashioned blizzard keeps you inside, what do you do? That's a silly question! You get a big mug of hot cocoa and head for the painting desk. Sonja took advantage of her free day to catch up reading articles. I totally slagged off and began work on the third squadron of dragoons. Doesn't the regiment look nice all lined up there on the table? I really want to make a push and get these babies finished in the next week or so. Once I've passed the halfway point with the painting of a unit, I find that the early enthusiasm kicks back in. Plus I want to start on the regiment of RSM95 grenadiers. Charge!!! P.S. Almost forgot to mention that I discovered a site today where one can create and download a PDF of square graph paper, hex sheets, and a number of other types of grids . It occurred to me that this might have all kinds of campaign uses. Visit: I printed a single sheet og 0.5 cm hexagons on a piece o

Central Illinois Under Blizzard Warning!!!

Well, the Grand Duchy of Stollen has shut down today due to an area blizzard blowing through the area! We may possibly get 12" of snow out of the storm by the time it's through. Winds have already picked up, and temperatures will drop to below 0 degrees Fahrenheit by tonight. Windchill temperatures will be even colder. All area schools, colleges, and universities as well as libraries, shelters, etc. are closed today, so the Grand Duchess Sonja is having a deserved lie-in and awaiting breakfast in bed at 10AM. As for me, I'm enjoying a mug of coffee at the moment and listening to the weather alerts on the National Weather Service Radio. This is exciting and reminds me of all of those bad winter storms we used to get in Eastern Pennsylvania when I was a child in the 1970s. During the 1977-78 school year, we had snow days beginning before Thanksgiving through March and were in school, making up the missed days, until the last week of June! I have many happy memories of

Getting There -- Slowly, But Surely

Happy Monday! No school for me today since Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is honored in Illinois, so I’m enjoying a large mug of coffee and listening to RDP Radio Portugal (in Portuguese) on my big, old Grundig Satelit 650 shortwave radio at the moment. Best of all, there’s a massive snowstorm headed directly our way from which we could accumulate as much as 8” of new snow by Tuesday evening. So, it looks like it’s time for me to apply another coat of glide wax to our skis in anticipation! I painted lots of smaller things on the latest squadron of dragoons yesterday afternoon, and during a second session in the evening. Except for the metallic colors (swords, musket barrels, et al), which I envision taking about an hour, the troopers and officer are all finished. The big job now is to get the brown Grumbacher “English Red” applied to the horses. It usually takes about an hour to paint 4-5 horses because I work the paint carefully around all of the reins and harnesses, which

Squadron B Nears Completion

Got a lot of painting done on Squadron B of the dragoons during a late morning session and an evening session yesterday – and still had time for a lovely afternoon Nordic skiing tour of a nearby state park! From the photo at left you can see that I still have to paint the yellow trim along the light blue saddle cloths, the leather girths and stirrup leathers, the horses, and the metalics (silver stirrups and swords, brass sword pommels and scabbard tips). Probably another two evenings’ worth of work, maybe a little bit more. And then it’s on to the third and final squadron. Just think, I might actually get this unit painted and varnished before the end of the month! Oh, and the skiing? Well, we had sun yesterday, about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, and snow that was still powdery because it’s been so cold this passed week -- with a thermos of hot cocoa waiting in the car at the end of the jaunt. All in all, it was an ideal day for skiing through woods, fields, and along the sh

How Many Units? K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Son)

This is Jeff Hudelson’s question over in the neighboring Principality of Saxe-Bearstein right now. And one that I’ve tried to reply to there twice, but the new version of Blogger doesn’t seem to want to let me do that. Grrrrr. . . Kind of like the supercomputer “Hal” in 2001: A Space Odyssey ! So, I’ll respond to Jeff’s query here and offer my own thoughts and ideas in the process. My philosophy is to keep an army painting project fairly simple and manageable. Since I’m amassing “BIG” battalions of between 30-64 figures each and want to get everything painted and on the table before decrepitude sets in, I suggest keeping armies fairly small: 4-6 units of infantry, 2-3 of cavalry, and a battery or two. These are forces the size and organization of those fielded by Brigadier Young and Colonel Lawford in Charge! If your units are smaller, than those described, then so much the better. You’ll get ‘em on the table even more rapidly. Fine and dandy, but what if, as Je

How to Have Fun at 11 Degrees Fahrenheit

Totally unconnected to the Grand Duchy of Stollen. But as the Duke of Saxe-Bearstein -- Mr. Jeff Hudelson -- has proven during his stage career (he's acted for about 40 years and appeared in more than 200 productions), there is indeed a connection between skiing and the 18th century! Anyway, Sonja's and my jaunt earlier this afternoon was too much fun not to share a few photographs of our ski tour around the Illinois State University golfcourse in Normal, Illinois. 4"-5" of fresh, cold powder fell today, and it's supposed to remain cold through at least the weekend, which means more Nordic skiing later in the week. It doesn't get much better than that.

Starting Squadron B

Another lovely snowfall this morning! 3”-7” predicted, so we might be able to ski along the bicycling trail later today. Seems we’re actually having a real winter this year in our part of Illinois, with genuine cold temperatures (it was -8 degrees Fahrenheit yesterday morning) and several snowstorms. And I love it! Got down to business with the second squadron of the 4 th (Trakehnen) Dragoons yesterday evening. Painted the first coat of GW Goblin Green on the bases, two coats of red on the coats, the white plumes on the hats, and the gold edging “tape” on the officer’s tricorne. This evening, I’ll paint the wigs, faces, white gauntlets, and red breeches. But I’ll start with a second coat of green on the bases. The following session, I plan to complete the saddle clothes and valises (light blue edged in yellow) and then carefully trim in the reddish-brown for the horses before moving on to the smaller details. No more photos until the entire regiment is finished and

News Flash: First Batch of Dragoons Are Finished!!!

OK, here you are ladies and gentlemen! Squadron A and the regimental staff of the 4th (Trakehnen) Dragoons . All finished and ready for your viewing pleasure. Painting time for the 12 figures pictured -- about two weeks (at a leisurely pace). For those of you who are interested, here's the technical information: Basecoat: Liquitex acrylic gesso -- white Undercoat: Liquitex acrylic paint-- black Paints: Mostly Games Workshop augmented by Ral Partha, Poly S, and Grumbacher (artist's oil colors) Brushes: Cotman (Windsor&Newton) synthetic bristles #3 (for bulk of painting), Cotman #2 for horses, Leow #001 for detail work, and a Liquitex#3/0 Sable Spotter for tiny details. I've actually had the sable bristle brush since the early 90s. Amazing how long a good brush will last with reasonable use and care. Varnish: Future Acrylic Floor Polish (not yet completed -- I'll do all 30 figures when the entire regiment is finished) The second batch of nine figures -- Squadro

Von Cranz Solo

And here's a solo shot of the dastardly Colonel Von Cranz! You can see where I wrestled with "clumping" of the Ral Partha acrylic white paint on his steed's neck, just above the reins. I should have used thinner washes rather than a single coat of paint. That's what I get for hurrying along. Ah well, a coat of Future floor polish should visually smooth that out when I apply it my favorite clear protective coat. In general though, Von Cranz not at all bad for an unlikable guy.

Dragoons Get Shoulder Belts!

Just a quick update before bedtime. If you look closely at the photo, you'll see that Squadron A has received its white shoulder belts and waist belts (look very closely). Invisible here are the newly finished yellow shoulder straps, although I still must paint the yellow and red "wings" on the drummer. Oh, and you'll also observe the white markings on horses' muzzles and fetlocks. Hopefully, I can wrap up this batch during the weekend. Cross your fingers!

Latest Dragoon Photo Update on the Way. . .

But in the meantime, here's a shot of the final (and I mean FINAL) building in the Grand Duchy of Stollen, which was constructed a couple of weeks ago and has yet to be painted. Unlike my previous model buildings, which are composites of various structures across Northern Germany & Northern Europe, this particular model church is actually based on a historical structure that still stands in the old East Prussian town of Allenburg/Дружба (Алленбург) -- now in the Kaliningrad enclave of Russia. Seems the actual church was not horribly or irreparably damaged during the latter days of the 1939-45 war and has undergone some recent restorative work. Amazingly, it now features occasional Evangelical Lutheran services -- as was the case pre-1945! I haven't been able to learn whether the church has been used for Russian Orthodox service or not during the last 60+ years. Anyway, I'll paint this final structure in the usual predominant dusty pink-red brick color with a grey-gr