Monday, 6 March 2017

North American Blockhouse 2

Work continues on the blockhouse with the roof being tidied up (slightly) and most the paint work being completed. Some touch ups and refinements are required but it is taking its final shape. I tried for a weathered look to the timbers, I am not sure that I fully achieved this but they seem rather reasonable in tone. The base is painted in the same manner as the infantry (both the Indian, French and eventually British), While this makes the blockhouse seem rather dark when flocked etc it should be far better. I am reasonably happy with how the painting came out although the palisade made reaching certain point (especially under the fighting platform) rather difficult.

If I was to attempt the project again I believe keeping the block house separate from the palisade and base to facilitate easier painting. While it may make construction a little more tricky the effort saved in painting would more than make up for it.

The view inside the palisade and fighting platform. The door to the blockhouse itself can be clearly seen.

I have also attempted to tidy up the roof somewhat and while it is better than it was it is still not quite up to par. It will do for now, however I shall build a better, non rushed, version in the future. The base needs to be flocked and 'tufted', if there is such a word. I am undecided on what else to add to the base, as it is quite a large area and may look a little barren without something else. My British allied Indians (which are yet to be posted) have fallen/brown leaves due to the predominantly forested areas they would fight. It is tempting to to this for the blockhouse as well. However, I have yet to develop a method of placement that appears natural rather than odd clumps of leaves. I believe some practice and trial runs may be in order!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

North American Blockhouse

One of the key features of Colonial North America is the network of forts and defences along the frontiers. Some of these fortifications are massive and as such would take a great a deal of effort to create while only being able to be used within only the largest of games. What was more common, and far more usable in a wargaming sense, is a smaller outpost or blockhouse. Maybe such a structure is the refuge for a settlement or an outlying position for one of the larger forts? Either way it doesn't take up too much space on the table while giving that wild and frontier feel, it also gives a focal point to larger settlements.

The terrain piece has languished in a state of incompleteness for a number of years but I have resolved to finally see it finished. The blockhouse itself is a rather cheap and simple construction but one that I think is eminently usable. The pictures show the almost complete structure of the blockhouse and palisade.

The view from the front and entrance
The palisade and fighting platform

The doorway to the blockhouse.

As you can see, it's not the greatest construction. The roof is not very well done to be honest but is serviceable and can be tidied up in future. 

There are a number of things that still need to be completed before the Blockhouse is ready to be painted. The edges of the base sanded and bevelled as well as the top textured and sealed. The styrofoam stone work also needs to be sealed along with the balsawood planks.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

French and Indian War Beginnings

Once again my enthusiasm for my Empire army has trailed off, I was however happy with the amount that was achieved even within such a short period.  Instead I have diverted my attentions to the French and Indian War. There are two reasons for this: I absolutely love the period and have been working off and on for some years and that I have a game of Muskets and Tomahawks organised for May.

As stated I am very interested in 18th Century North America, mostly related to the French and Indian War (the name for the American theatre of the Seven Years War). The core reason for my interest, especially from a wargaming perspective, is the freedom that the period offers. Innumerably small actions can be fought using a wide range of figures whereby allowing for a great number of differing stories to be told. This strikes to the core of wargaming views; a method of telling stories, whether fictional or historical. This is combined with a love of the wilderness of colonial North America, the primordial forests which played and shaped the lives and warfare of those involved.

 This interest in the F&IW has manifested itself over the years in the formation of three wargaming forces. First of all my French. My most beloved force for the period and arguably the largest. This stems from a number of reasons generally related to siding with the underdog. If one is unaware the French colonies were large in area and very limited in manpower, roughly 75,000-80,000 settlers. The second is the Colonial Compagnies Franche de la Marine. I find these soldiers deeply fascinating, French enlisted recruits and (eventually) Canadian Officers useful as both light infantry manning the many forts in the vast Canadian/Louisiana/Ohio wildernesses as well as disciplined to conform to European methods, with the training and rigour to boot. This is coupled with a rather simple yet pleasing uniform and the option for a more relaxed frontier style of dress.

Compagnies Franche de la Marine in their normal European style Uniform. 
The drummer is in the standard colours of all French drummers (Michel Petard)
A break down showing the shirt, waistcoat, coat breeches and gaiters. 
Note the buff/brown belt. (Michel petard)

The above illustrations are partly what captivated my regarding Colonial Compagnies Franche de la Marine. I love the simplicity of the white/grey and the blue. The drawings themselves also having a certain style and panache helped as well.

With this in mind there are a few rules that we use or that I have used for other periods that overlap/ are suitable for the French and Indian War. Arguably the most popular and widely considered to be the modern classic for this period is Muskets and Tomahawks. With a relatively easy to use but yet with highly adaptable mechanics meaning that the battles scale well from rather small skirmishes with a handful of figures a side to larger games with regular firing lines and units. This combined with a robust narrative and random encounter system make the 6 or so scenarios contained within the book rather more varied. The only downside, and this is a rather personal opinion, is the lack of a campaign system regarding troops, experience/morale etc. These can be easily house ruled but I would have liked an 'official' system, possible with expansion random encounters and talents.

There are however are great number of other games that cover the French and Indian War or Black Powder periods in general that can be adapted/have supplements or expansion suitable. These games also cover different scales of combat ranging from individuals or small groups to large battles and sieges.

The two smallest scale games that I know and have played are Song of Drums and Tomahawks (a variation of the very popular Song of Blades and Heroes franchise) and Long Rifle. While focused on a smaller skirmish wargame both take rather different approaches. Song of Drums and Tomahawks is your standard 5-10 figure aside skirmish game, infinitely familiar to those who already know Song of... games. This is not to suggest it is a poor game merely that it is immediately accessible. Long Rifle, in contrast, has a great deal more RPG elements as well as greater reaction and morale mechanics. Long Rifle is also designed with solo play in mind and is most definitely campaign focused, it being inherent to the development of your character.

Sharp Practice  fills a similar niche to Muskets and Tomahawks in terms of game size. It is, however, eminently more restrictive in terms of force composition due to the fixed nature of unit sizes. Sharp Practice also lends itself to more regular actions, although it is capable of doing skirmishes or irregular battles as well. The background designer is wonderful at adding character to your officers and developing their actions throughout a game/campaign. It does the same as Muskets and Tomahawks' optional objectives albeit with a more concrete and structured mechanic. There is currently no official campaign structures other than linking scenarios and devising them yourselves but hopefully there will be an expansion release at some point in the future.

Hopefully this gives a reasonable introduction to my thoughts in regards to the F&IW. In the coming days or weeks there will be some photographs of my collections and terrain developments as well as the plans I have relating to the upcoming games in May.