Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Battle at Palestro: May 30th 1859

On November 14th, my group and I got together to fight the Battle of Palestro.  This battle took place on May 30th in 1859 and was part of the 2nd War of Italian Independence.  The Sardinians were charged with keeping the Austrians busy while the French made a flanking march to attach the Austrians on their right.  That battle would end up being the Battle of Magenta. 
Not being able to find any reliable maps for the battles and working from some brief descriptions of the battle field, I reconstructed the battle as best I could.  Mainly the battle field was open field with irrigation trenches and some small rivers running through it.  There were only a few slight rises above the battle field itself and very few trees. 
The rules used this time was Piquet's Field of Battle.  A set of rules we have used quite a bit in the past.  We like them and have added our own modifications to them.
A first for me, I was able to put the rosters for both sides up on this blog.  I also upped the size of the forces so each infantry or cavalry unit was a Brigade so each player was commanding a Division.  Every two divisions was a corp.  In order to show the larger number of men assembled, I upped the unity integrity to 5 instead of 4.  Seemed to work well, so units didn't start having issues until the UI dropped to 3.  You can see the rosters below. 

The setup the Italians are on the right.  They had the orders to attack and to cover the flanking maneuver that the French were doing behind them. This didn't actually happen for the game but was what the French did historically.

The Italians pushed forward.  The center saw the most action all night.  Both wings rolled 1s consecutively causing both sides to stall.  I've never witnessed it before but both sides rolled 1s for movement (meaning they couldn't move) 4 times in a row. 

The Austrian forces moving across when of the streams.

The Italian right waiting for their move orders.

The Austrian left waiting for its move orders.

Austrian cannons causing casualties to the Italians.

The Italian center continued to advance.

The Austrian left. I ended up taken this flank over after one player had to leave. I broke the streak of failed movement and my cavalry took off across the field.

A routed Italian cavalry unit.

The Italians wait for my attack.

The Austrian right flank finally starts to move.

The Austrian center starts to take a beating from accurate Italian gun fire.
The Austrians started bleeding chips and so were the Italians.

My cavalry charged and lost big time. My infantry continues to advance.

The center units come together and both get very bloody. Both sides were down to 3 or 4 morale points a piece.

One of my Infantry units makes it and attacks the Italians.

That unit died to the man.

Italians continue to advance in the center

The Austrians and the Italians were both out of morale chips and the Austrians pulled the Army Morale card first and rolled poorly.  The Austrians lost.  Piquet's Field of Battle again gave an incredible game where it was settled on the last die roll.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Flexible Terrain Mat part II

Well today was the day to attempt the full size terrain mat.  On Thursday I did a smaller 4'x4' mat to try out a few other things that I learned or others had suggested from my first attempt.  This time instead of clamping the canvas down to the wood itself, I had two 8' 1x3 pieces of wood cut in half.  Using the canvas that over lapped the table I clamped those pieces of wood to the canvas giving me the full surface to work on.  However the practice canvas I did on Thursday shrunk significantly, almost 3/4".  So today I still clamped the boards to the canvas but I then drove some wood screws with washers into the edges of the plywood table to hold the canvas as well.  The clamped boards helped in pulling out the wrinkles and screws then helped in holding it into place. 
Now the other thing I tried differently was the mixing of the caulking, sand and paint mixture.  I stopped at our local Fred Meyer (grocery store) and picked up an $8 hand mixer.  I poured the paint, sand and caulk into my bucket and then used the mixer.  It worked great!  It cut my mixing time in half.  Unlike my first time I didn't put in any water just to see how thick the mixture was and it was pretty thick.  I used about a 1/2 cup of water and blended that into it.  That helped a great deal.
So my mixture contained
4 tubes of acrylic painters caulk
1/2 gallon of latex paint
1/2 cup of water
enough sand to cover the bottom of the bucket.  You don't need a lot of sand for this, goes far when mixing with paint.  
This amount covered a 4'x8' mat with nothing left over in the bucket.

 Today I also had some help from my lovely assistant Charlotte, who's my daughter.
The first time she stuck her hand in the bucket she freaked and said, "Daddy my glove has a hole in it.  I can feel the paint!"  I told her she didn't but what she was feeling was the cool temperature of the paint.  Soon she was smearing the stuff around like a champ!

My wife came out and took some pictures of us.  This process went very quickly.

The mixture has been applied.  You will notice that the edges were also painted.  So when the canvas shrinks the color will go right to the edge.

My daughter sifting the flocking over the paint.  Using a big metal spoon I picked from Goodwill and a strainer the flocking comes out nice and smooth. No large clumps at all.

The finished product.  I didn't take a picture of it but the closest edge had already shrunk some from the paint.  I'm glad I tacked it down with the screws and washers.  It will now sit over night and tomorrow night or Monday night I will hit it with some Woodland Scenics' Scenic Cement.
This mat will make it's gaming debut on 11/7.  Can't wait!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Flexible Terrain Mat

Well I finally did it. I made my own flexible terrain mat.  Some of you have read Tobi's blog post on making a  Flexible Terrain Mat.  If you haven't it's worth the trip over there.  I've had the canvas and some of the materials for about 6 months or so, I was lacking time and space in the garage to set this up and do it.  I was inspired by Tobi's mat to try my own but the only thing about his post was the lack of details on HOW he did it.  For example he doesn't specify how much water he mixed into the sand and paint.  
So to give this a whirl I bought a small piece of artist canvas and the supplies and decided to take the plunge.

The bare white canvas. Tobi drilled screws or something like that into his table to hold the canvas down and to stop it from shrinking.  First time out I just used some clamps to hold it place.  The work space is 4'x4'.

I stopped by the local Ace Hardware and picked up 50lbs of Play ground sand for $5.  Again no real proportions were given so I just poured some in remembering my scenery building days from theatre and a little bit of sand goes a long way. 

The acrylic latex caulk.  Inexpensive ones.  I did notice that some of the caulk had silicon in it so I avoided that type.

The paint! Again at the local Ace they had these quart sized cans that had been returned and my 9 yr old daughter helped me pick out two different colors we thought would work out.

The rest of the supplies. Gloves (very needed), water, underbrush foliage, static grass and fine turf.  Also a strainer and a pencil which you can't see.

The two buckets of paint, sand and caulk and water.  I used all three tubes of caulk about 1 1/2 in each bucket. I poured in the water and then realized I had too much water. What should have turned out to be a paste like substance was more like a thick soup. I added a little more paint to the mix.  I put on the gloves and mixed it all together. This took the longest amount of time.  The caulk does not break up easily in paint, sand, water mixture.  I'm thinking for the next one I will pick up an used hand held mixer at Goodwill and use that instead.

So I smeared the mixture onto the canvas.  The darker color was a lot more runny and I feared it wouldn't work.  I was also unsure how smooth the mixture should be on the canvas. I tried a few times to smooth it out but it only made it worse. Again all of this was applied by hand. No brushes or putty knives etc..

Now the flocking. Note to anyone who decides to do this. When opening up one of Woodland Scenics big bottles of Fine Turf, make sure you have opened up the shaker side first before you turn the thing over.  See that big dark patch, yep the spoon side was open. Oh well as Bob Ross would say, "A happy accident".

These three pictures show the different colors of static grass I used and the little bit of clump foliage.  To apply this I dumped some of the grass into my strainer and then used the pencil to stir it out so it would clump up and would fall where it wanted too.  It worked really well.

So I let this dry for 24 hours.  The following day after work I grabbed my bottle of Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement with the spray top and sprayed down the whole mat.

Again another 24 hours rolled along and when I got home from work everything was nice and dry.  I took the clamps off and there was very little shrinkage of the canvas.  I picked up one side to see how much flocking would come off and the barest amount fell off.  So far so good.  

I trimmed the excess canvas off of the sides and then asked my wife and daughter to come and give their opinion.  Essentially I wasn't sure which colored side I liked better.  I'm leaning towards the lighter side.  My daughter liked the lighter side but wife liked the darker side.

Which side do you like? I asking this seriously so when I do the larger 8'x4' canvas I will get only one color this time. I don't think I should go darker as it would hide the flocking but I could be wrong. Might need to do another test piece. 

When I was all done, I rolled the thing up and unrolled it and nothing fell off.

I learned a few things with this piece. 
1. less water!! 
2. need something else to mix it all together with.
3. For the bigger canvas, bolting it down will be better than the clamps. They took up too much room.
4. Instead of applying the static grass in separate waves blend them all and then sprinkle it on.  Will give a better more realistic look. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Dave's Baggage Train

When I went to Historicon this past summer I ran across Dave's Baggage Train. Owned by Phillip.  Dave's Baggage Train
The first thing I noticed about these trays was the nice plastic they were made out of and how the trays are durable.  I have plenty of the Army Transport trays made from foam and most of them have come apart at the seams. Literally.  
There are several types of trays, the ones I bought were 2" deep and plastic. He also has some made of wood.  
The other nice thing is the price point. Dave's trays are $6 a piece (for the 2" ones) compared to the $11 or $12 Army transport trays.

Here's a shot of the army transport tray inside the Dave's Baggage Train tray.  The length of the tray means you can't use the army transport bags.  Since I've invested a lot of money in the army transport trays I will keep using them to store my figures but use the Baggage train trays for transport.

These are 1/72 scale tanks in the 2" tray.  There are other accessories you can purchase as well like tray liners, magnet sheets and so on.

Give them a look and see what you think.