Thursday 31 December 2009

A Vote of Thanks and the Legion D'Honneur

I just wanted to close the Year, or more correctly, the first nine months of this Blog, with a well deserved vote of thanks to all those whose influence, support, contributions, comments and inspiration have done so much to make it become a reality.

I had originally intended the Blog to merely be a template or sounding board upon which I could sketch out some of my ideas concerning miniatures projects, and also serve as a form of easily referable record of photos of completed work.
Of course I also wanted to review miniatures that would be a part of future projects, and even offer a resource for those that might share my interests in the smallest of scales. I had no idea, however, that what I saw as relatively 'niche' or rarified subjects would find as ready an audience as they have, nor that my sometimes incoherent ramblings would strike a chord with so many other miniaturists and wargamers out there.

I would like then, to offer my sincerest thanks to all those who have humbled and surprised me by taking the time and trouble to sign up as Followers to this Blog; to all those who have made the effort to leave Comments, (whether critical or comic!), or who have shown their interest and support in myriad ways, from those who were kind enough to reference this Blog at their own websites or outlets, or went out of their way to include it amongst their favourites, or marked it as a Blog of note.

Without the invaluable encouragement this has provided me, I am sure that the project would have remained still-born, and likely have withered into obscurity long since. Therefore, I would like to hereby award all of those who have shown an interest in SteelonSandBlog, (who are far too numerous to name - but you know who you are!) the Legion D'Honneur, in recognition of your gracious input.

I wish I could offer more than this merely symbolic recognition (that's right, you can't use it on your letterheads...), but hope that I can reward your kind interest during the coming year with the more practical offering of lots more content regarding the Smaller Scales.
I will sign off then now, by wishing you and yours the Compliments of the Season, and hope that all enjoy a peaceful and prosperous New Year.

See you all in 2010!

Best Regards, SteelonSand.

Sunday 27 December 2009

Dr Who in 6mm: Dino Invasion Part II

Something stirs in the quiet of the English Home Counties; whether evil intent as part of a diabolical master plan, or merely the quirk of the mysteries of Time itself, who can say?
Market day in the town of Lower Throckmorton is about to witness the Invasion of the Dinosaurs!

A pastoral scene; the inhabitants of Lower Throckmorton gather on a Saturday morning and go about their usual business.

The suddenly, something appears at the end of the lane - can it really be?

"Look there, there I tell you, run, run for your lives!"

A scatter of panicking feet leads only to an encounter with more of the giant, fearsome creatures:

Then truly, amidst screams of fear, the hunt begins!

"Flee you fools, while you still can! Who can save us now?"

U.N.I.T. arrives on the scene:
"What do you mean the Brigadier wants us to hold fire until you can see the whites of their eyes, it's the whites of their teeth that I'm worried about!"

"This is a job for the Doctor....."

"Hmm, fascinating, do you think they'd like a JellyBaby?"

Finally, U.N.I.T. Heavy Weapons engage, and the strange prehistoric invaders are vanquished. Yet how did they come from out of the mists of Time in the first place, and who or what caused them to appear........?

A bit of photographic fun, then, with the dinosaur miniatures last seen in their unpainted state.
I found the trio of 10mm types from Pendraken the easiest to paint, in that their sculpts were nice and knobbly allowing for some grandiose dry-brushing rather than any detailed painting being required.
The smoother offerings from Magister Militum were a bit tougher on my limited painting skills, but as you paint them, you begin to appreciate the detail in terms of sculpted tooth and claw that they have managed to put into these; truly some great little monsters!

Tuesday 22 December 2009

2mm Web Resources Update

A quick update now, to the list of resources pertaining to 2mm miniatures available on the Web. Some exciting new developments have been occurring with the start of a new Blog by CJR, and also an interesting new direction taken by an existing Blog, ISeeLeadPeople.

Eli Arndt has always had a whole raft of interesting ideas at the latter Blog, taking in a range of periods and types of miniatures, with plenty of creative work on intellectual backgrounds for gaming - well worth a thorough browse when you have the time!
Now, however, in his pursuit of a new project involving VSF-style Land Ironclads set on Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars, he is branching out into 2mm.

Can't wait to see how it all turns out, but in the meantime, make sure to have a look at his scratch-built Martian cities, and the development of his forces to battle it out on the Red Planet over at:

The new Blog, TwoThreeSixMM, has had a very promising start in describing the author's ideas for the smallest of scale miniatures, which will, amongst other things, be looking at using Irregular's 2mm output to recreate the fantasy worlds envisaged by both Robert E. Howard and Charles Saunders.

There are some nice photos of 2mm wolf packs masquerading as lions, and some great scratch-built buildings and bases for an alternative history campaign.

I definitely think these will both be 'ones to watch' in the coming year, and hope they will just be the vanguard of a new wave of 2mm related gaming to come....... :-)

Monday 21 December 2009

Rivers for Small Scale Gaming

A long held frustration of mine when it comes to terrain for use with the smallest of Small-Scale miniatures is the depiction of rivers on the tabletop. As I mainly use terrain mats with 2mm troops, all scenics or terrain pieces are necessarily those that are placed on top of this mat.
Now this expanse of green, in my case, can often be found broken up by road networks which are temporarily laid using dark flocking powder or even dried coffee grounds, that can be vacuumed up afterwards, but the putting down of water-courses presents much more of a problem.

I have found that most of the commercially available product out there is simply too large and too wide to represent anything other than the widest of rivers, estuaries in scale, even, when put against those 2mm unit bases. Whilst I do own some of the useful river sections made by Terrain Mat in the UK, they are really too wide for your average stream or medium sized river.
Now of course Irregular Miniatures themselves offer a very useful Roads pack in their Scenics and Accessories range, helpfully pictured by Tony Hughes of Tiny Tin Troops here:

these can be painted to represent rivers as well as roads, but here comes part two of my pet peeve: although 25 sections are available for UK £9.00, the sections themselves are in relatively short lengths, so much so that the river, when laid across the tabletop, looks more like a jigsaw than a coherent watercourse!
What I wanted to get my hands on was something that would come in long single lengths that would naturally span the surface with fewer joins, whilst at the same time not being too wide to throw a bridge across.

I was very pleased, then, to come across the DH1000 pack of Ditches from S&A Scenics, offering some 60 inches of ditch for £11.00. As you can see in the first photo above, a decent selection of lengths and curved parts, the longest of which coming out at just under 30cm, with an overall width including banks of 25mm, with the inner 'ditch' itself being 10mm wide.

In a hommage to the Road/Rivers from Irregular, then, I set out to give these ditches a repaint to look more like what I was after.
The strips themselves are basically a thin slice of MDF, with built up edges, painted in the centre with a very dark brown stripe, and having some rough vegetation to the banks added probably with a flocking gel or paste containing grit or sand. These lumps have been dry-brushed in a rather lurid yellow, the banks in a light green.

The pack contains three of the longest sections, with a nice meandering profile, two half-lengths that are even more curved, and finally the constituents, in four further pieces, of a nice curve.

Plenty, then, to make use of, and remember an overall length of 60 inches to cover the width of the tabletop with as few joins as possible.

Next, I had ago at an example stretch, just to see how well these might perform in their dramatic conversion from humble ditch to noble river!
A few splodgy dry-brush strokes with a dark shade of green took care of the worst examples of the yellow blobs-as-vegetation, and some watered down PVA was then attacked with some flock and a few wafts of static grass. The 'water' itself already had a nice undercoat in the form of the dark background of the ditch, so some Prussian Blue was washed down the middle:

Of course, I was far too impatient to let this properly dry before blowing off the excess static grass, so some of it ended up, shall we say, as if 'floating' down the river - more attention to detail required for the other sections, I think!

Anyway, not bad for a quick example piece, and hopefully this gives some idea of what the whole might look like, seen here with a couple of bridges from Irregular Miniatures, (BG126) shown for scale:

Finally, with a few blocks of troops approaching what should be, rather than an impassable object, an inherent part of the terrain they will have to fight over:

I think the ditch lengths should reward some more care and attention to detail, and hopefully will give the aesthetically pleasing lack of so many physical joins that I was after. In conclusion, of course, these would also stand in at larger scales for merely smaller rivers, or even streams, so may well see some double duty in the future!

Friday 11 December 2009

Dr Who in 6mm: Invasion of the Dinosaurs

I remember fondly, many moons ago, at the twilight of the John Pertwee era of the BBC series Dr Who, watching some episodes that absolutely terrified me. Young as I was, I suppose it was quite an impressionable age, but the life-like and realistic depictions of terrible monsters roaming the streets of a deserted London left a great impression on my mind.

Having come, then, to rather a stalemate in my search for suitable enemy proxy figures to expand my vision of recreating Dr Who with 6mm miniatures, I decided to fall back on this unique addition to the hall of TV monster adversaries.
This post then, will see me looking at some of the available minis, and how they might take their place alongside the Sontarans, U.N.I.T. and the Daleks.

For those of you unaware of the original episodes, or for those who were there first time around, but have memories faded by later, inferior movies, I present to you a Fan tribute posted by someone on YouTube, which should explain all.....Cringe with terror, then, and be amazed at the special effects as you view the Invasion of the Dinosaurs!

If you have recovered from the shock, let's move on with looking at some minis. I was aware that Magister Militum have an interesting range of metal dinosaurs, but was rather put off by the price, as well as the fact that their scale/size is mainly a little large for 6mm purposes. A trawl through their catalogue, however, came up with some likely contenders:

Firstly, let's look at their DIN109 Gasosaurus, from their Menacing Monsters range:

This is a lovely sculpt of a suitably menacing biped, with hints of a junior T-Rex about it; some great looking teeth, too! The models are made at 1/160th scale, and come with a nice set of written details as to the historical animal, as well as a 40x20mm base made of hard, smooth plastic. This particular model retails at UK £2.00, so won't break the bank either, standing at around 22mm tall, and 34mm long.

Next up, influenced of course by the villains of Jurassic Park, I decided on the raptor-like DIN008, pack of Deinonychus, which provides five of the slavering beasts, with outstretched claws and......oh, I just realised the list of info on the pack describes them as herbivorous dinos!
Oh, well, a little poetic license, methinks.....

These come in at 14mm tall, and 24mm nose to tail, and retail at £3.00 for the five.
Now a comparison shot of the two types together:

Next, let's see how these monsters will look when let loose on some terrified civilians; the Gasosaurus:

Then the Deinonychus:

Of course, these tidy looking beasts were not enough to satisfy my desire for carnage creating Pre-historic behemoths, so I decide to go up a scale for some truly titanic creatures!
As always, costs reared their ugly head, (Rather like the SFX budget on the original series) so I opted for the very reasonable mixed pack of 10mm Dinosaurs available from Pendraken:

These are tucked away in their Fantasy Accessories range, under AC11, 3 dinos for £3.00!

I received one mean looking Allosaur type:

and a pair of spiny Stegosauri:

I'm not sure if there are more models available as the pack comes ready-mixed, but I was quite satisfied with these at the price.
There are some casting glitches and pitting visible on these 10mm sculpts, but nothing to detract from the model, really......let's look at them up against some more 6mm mobile lunc....I mean civilians:

The Allosaurus type stands an impressive 35mm tall and 54mm nose to tail, whilst the Stegosaurus is 24mm by 49mm.

Finally, let's see the contenders lined up together; I don't fancy the human's chances much, do you?

I will of course be putting brush to mini in the near future, so look out for some Dino themed action coming your way soon....for now, let's end with some atmospheric acting and pre-historic terror in another YOUTube clip of the original:


Monday 7 December 2009

6mm Romans: Ambush at Locus Castorum

I thought I'd take a look now at the likely make-up of the forces engaged in the initial battle of the 'Year of the Four Emperors' Campaign, namely the ambush at Locus Castorum.
For this I have been looking through the Histories of Tacitus which document the campaigns of AD69, and more particularly, the companion to the Histories written by Bernard W. Henderson, "Civil War and Rebellion in the Roman Empire AD69-70", which makes an effort to interpret the military aspects of the events described. Both of these are available to look at online; links follow at the end of this post.

As you might remember from a previous post:

the rather confusing ups and downs and ins and outs began with the fall of Nero and his replacement by Galba, only to see him in turn replaced by Otho; the Army in Germany, backing their own man, Vitellius, promptly set out to take on Otho.

We join the action as the Vitellan forces, split into two columns led by the Generals Caecina and Valens respectively, have entered Italy, and are approaching a showdown with the Othonians, who are made up of a column under Annius Gallus encamped at Bedriacum, and his back-up in the form of the main Army of Italy under Seutonius Paulinus and his deputy Marius Celsus.

The Vitellan troops were principally made up of the Army of Germany, along with a large number of auxiliaries of all types. Tacitus' text and his commentator Henderson point out the following:

From Germany:

Legio I Germanica
Legio V Alaudae
Legio XV Primigenia
Legio XVI Gallica
Legio IV Macedonica
Legio XXII Primigenia
Legio XXI Rapax

From Gaul:

Legio I Italica

8 Batavian Cohorts which were originally formed as the auxiliaries of the Legio XIV Gemina, (which had declared conversely for Otho)

From the Garrison of Lugdunum, a cavalry 'squadron', (more correctly a corps) the Ala Tauriana

Raetian auxiliaries

Thracian auxiliaries

A corps of cavalry, the Ala Siliana, some 960 strong, which had deserted from the Othonian side

Gallic, Lusitanian and British auxiliary cohorts

Vexilia (detachments) of German troops (Likely native levies)

A corps of cavalry, the Ala Petriana

There are unfortunately no detailed entries as to the exact numbers of these troops, or indeed, how they were split up between the columns of Caecina and Valens, and furthermore, some losses had been incurred fighting Othonian forces in Narbonese Gaul on the way to Italy, and also at the city of Placentia, which Caecina had attempted to take by storm, as well as in a number of skirmishes with the enemy in the valley of the River Po.

Knowing exactly who was in Caecina's vanguard at Locus Castorum is rather difficult to pin down, certainly, Tacitus is at pains to point out that it was mainly formed by auxiliary troops operating in rough ground and a force of cavalry; these were re-inforced in somewhat piecemeal fashion from the entrenched camp at Cremona once the battle had begun.

The Othonian side, thankfully, was set out in some detail, and therefore is easier to describe, thus:

In the centre, three Praetorian Cohorts.

On the right, Legio I Germanica, with two auxiliary cohorts of foot and 500 cavalry.

On the left, 2,000 men of a Vexilia of Legio XIII Gemina, with four auxiliary cohorts of foot, and 500 cavalry.

In the rear, 1,000 cavalry under Celsus.

Again, the overall number is hard to define, given the unknown compliment of men available to Legio I; the Praetorian Cohorts were ostensibly 1,000 each.

It is likely that the opposition under Caecina had initially a smaller number of men in the ambush, but soon they were appearing in such numbers as to cause the Othonian commanders to break off the engagement, perhaps 12~14,000 in each force therefore might be about right.

The narrative of the engagement must be set against a background of the likely arrival of reinforcements for the Othonian side from the Army of the Danube, and the need for the Vitellans to dominate the strategically important road network in the area, as well as seek a victory in the face of the recent reverse at the walls of Placentia.
Caecina, therefore, wanted to take the initiative, and decided to set an ambush in the vicinity of Locus Castorum which would lure the Othonians to battle. Twelve Roman miles east of Cremona, the raised military road of the Postumian Way ran for a short distance through woods on both sides, and emerged from the trees to pass through an area of vineyards, which were thickly planted and criss-crossed by irrigation ditches, therefore making them difficult ground for formed bodies of troops.
Here, just before the road left cover, Caecina placed his auxiliary foot in ambuscade, and pushed his cavalry further along the road with the intention of employing a 'feigned flight' (Battle of Hastings 1066 style) that would draw on the Othonians.

Unfortunately for the Vitellan cause, however, his plan was betrayed to the other side, and Seutonius Paulinus set out with his troops in the order described above, intending to use his cavalry to envelop the enemy from either wing.

The onrush of the Vitellan cavalry was not reciprocated by the Othonians, and it appears that somewhat in frustration, or more likely due to poor command and control, the auxiliaries in ambush rushed from cover and fell on the enemies' horse. This move was countered by a pre-arranged order, which saw the cavalry withdraw through the ranks of their own oncoming infantry, with the impetuous Vitellans pinned in their front by the Praetorians, and Othonian auxilia of both horse and foot closing in on their flanks; a double envelopment was only prevented by the precipitate withdrawal of the would-be ambushers into the vineyards, which then became a great obstacle for Seutonius as he urged an advance - this was further tempered by the arrival of back-up on the enemy side along the road.
A developing encounter-style battle then , which eventually saw Caecina draw off back in the direction of Cremona, and Seutonius wisely not attempting to follow-up, given that he was already ten miles beyond his own entrenchments at Bedriacum, and would possibly meet the column of Valens who might arrive at any time to supplement Caecina.

Tacitus is rather hard in his summation on both commanders, for the apparent folly of Caecina for setting a weak and hasty ambush, and for the caution displayed by Seutonius; but this is tempered by the more militarily focussed Henderson, who sees the tactical benefits of both their approaches. As to how this might actually play out on the tabletop, I'm yet to find out, and worry that the weaker ambush forces might get pushed off table before any back-up might arrive; furthermore, I've realised that I need to paint up a lot more auxiliary troops and cavalry, too!

So, more to come on this in the future, and in the meantime, onward and upward....

Tacitus' text (with some enlargeable maps of the North of Italy):

The Henderson Commentary (useful, but also as long winded as the original!):