Saturday, 22 September 2018

Terrain for Gaslands


We've been planning to try out Osprey's Gaslands for some time, so a few of us combined our imaginations, scoured our bit boxes, and found a handful of old hot wheels cars and made some vehicles. With a week to go after Colours before we were due to play we realised we were going to need some terrain - so here's what I put together in seven days, along with a few pictures of the game we played at the end.

I bought a 4 x 4 wasteland mat from Deep Cut Studios at Colours. To be honest it wasn't the mat I was originally looking for but they didn't have that one in the right size so I settled on this. In the end I have no regrets as this was definitely the better choice - the base cloth looks fantastic with the terrain on it. The only issue for me was to colour match the terrain pieces. As you will see I didn't get it perfectly right, but the end result I think looks OK.

The scenario we planned was Death Race. That meant all we really needed was a few race gates and some obstacles of various types. I added some sections of road, some concrete barriers and a couple of areas of hazardous terrain into the mix as well.

Race Gates

I ended up building six gates, though we're probably only going to ever need four. Each was a strip of 3mm MDF with two cylinders made from rolled corrugated card on each side. The start and finish gates had poles (cut from a set of black and white striped pencils bought from Poundland) and the other gates flags made from kebab sticks and masking tape. The card rolls in which these were set were filled with Milliput for strength and topped with sand. The base was textured around the cylinders with filler and sand mix, with the central section just textured with Chinchilla dust.

The general colour for the terrain was a bespoke mix of chocolate brown and a little dark red cheap emulsion paint (tester pots), dry brushed first with a light sand colour and then with a lighter cream colour (again, cheap emulsion testers). The cylinders were painted black and dry-brushed with gunmetal to give the effect of concrete-filled bollards made from corrugated metal. Flags were painted in bright colours with numbers.

I tried various approaches to make the start and finish banners with numerous failures because of the lack of strength of materials or the inability of the glue to stick to them. Finally, I settled on the simpler but less effective solution of printed paper banners with string glued to the top and bottom edges, connected and held firmly between the (pencil) poles by glue and a few blobs of green stuff. They're very solid, and they look OK from a distance. If I get the time I might replace them with something better, but they will do for the moment.

I realised (as some of you will have already, probably) that my design wasn't directional, so I needed some way of indicating the way to enter each gate. The easy solution was to add some signs so I printed out some yellow and black chevrons of the type used to indicate sharp corners an stuck these to sections of wide lolly stick (readily available at very low cost in The Works and other such shops) and glued them to the sides of the gates.

Start and finish gates
Gates #1 - #4
Solid Obstacles

Basically, these are piles of rocks. I cut bases from 3mm MDF, put some PVA-soaked newspaper on top and pushed some stones into it. This sets extremely solidly. When dry these were textured with the base mix and finally painted in the general terrain colours above. Very simple.

Rock piles
Destructible Obstacles

These are road signs and billboards. 3mm MDF bases with signs and boards made from lolly sticks, coffee stirrers and kebab sticks, with some spare tyres added at the edges of some of the bases for effect. Bases painted as above, wood given a thin coat of the sand colour used as the first highlight.

I appreciate that there are signs and billboard posters that are available from the Gaslands web site or Facebook group but I wanted something different so the signs and posters I used were either taken and modified from images available on the Internet or made up by myself. The exception is the advert for the forthcoming 7TV2 Post-Apocalypse Kickstarter from Crooked Dice, which is a reduced sized copy of their flyer. Next month, chaps. I am not the only one to be very excited about this. 

If you want to make your own billboards using these designs, they are available to download as a jpg file here.

Various signs and billboards
Volatile Obstacles

Two of the signs indicate flammable and explosive items, so I made a couple of small bases with 20mm oil drums (from Debris of War) as well.

Danger - explosives
Roads

The roads are two straight sections of 3mm MDF, each 24" long so that they will fit perfectly across the base cloth. I made a couple of smaller sections with angled edges so that the road could also run diagonally across the board as well.

I glued a narrower strip of roofing felt to these to be the road surface. This works very well but needs to be weighted down while it dries so that the edges don't curl up. I used a normal household glue to stick this. I made the mistake a year ago of trying to stick roofing felt to MDF using epoxy glue. Do not try this - it melts the felt and makes a horrible mess.

When dry, I carefully added base texture to the edges of the road. These edges were carefully painted so as not to paint the road surface. I was a little less careful with the dry brushing as a little of this on the road surface is fine and just gives the impression of a dusty landscape.

Highway across the wasteland
Concrete Barriers

I'm not quite sure about these, to be honest. I think they would be improved by some graffiti, posters or signs so will probably add to them in due course. However, here they are for the time being. Based as usual on 3mm MDF, these are made from cardboard coated with paper mache and textured. I was going for a sort of concrete wall look and I think they work fine. They could be used as solid obstacles as well as the rock piles, though in the event we didn't use these in our first game.

Concrete barriers
Hazardous Terrain

The easiest of the lot. This is just made from 3mm MFD textured (with an extra sprinkle of small stones) and painted.

Areas of hazardous terrain
More Signs

I made a lot more of the directional indicators than I needed for the gates, so I kept these to use as items of scatter terrain around the circuit. They don't necessarily mean drivers have to follow those directions, of course, but are just there for effect.

Yet more signs
And now that I have all the basic terrain I will add to this slowly as I am inspired!

Our First Game of Gaslands

This was a lot of fun and I was very pleased that my effort in putting the terrain together was not wasted. We were slow, true, and the game was not finished, but that's because there were five of us with two cars each and we were all unfamiliar with the rules. We also probably put the gates too far apart. But we got faster as we played and will doubtlessly continue to do so as we play more.

Some images of our game follow for your entertainment!















Wednesday, 25 July 2018

29, Let's Go! - Turn 6: Counterattack at St Germain-du-Pert

4.30a.m., D+5, 11 June 1944

It was reasonably quiet on this warm night in St Germain, but even so, Lieutenant Cooper couldn't get to sleep. Outside, beyond the broken window frame, there was the glow in the sky from the fires burning in distant Isigny, the occasional flash of some distant explosion, irregular bursts of gunfire from far away.  But it was the war inside his head that was keeping him awake. Too many recent memories that he would already rather forget. The first three days had been fairly uneventful. The advance into France had been slow, and the only Germans he'd see had been those taken prisoner or those dead in the remains of bunkers or ditches beside the road. Until yesterday, when the Major had ordered him to lead G Company in the assault on St Germain. And so they had seen the enemy off, and opened the way for the attack, and been given some time to recover. He'd even found a comfortable bed in what remained of a hotel. But there were just too many thoughts chasing around in his head, and he couldn't relax.  Not long, he thought, and the sun would be rising again, and all his chances of getting to sleep would end. He shifted position, hoping that would do the trick.

----------------------------

Outside, in the pre-dawn light, there was movement along a hedgerow to the north of St Germain-du-Pret, as a platoon of German grenadiers crept slowly through the darkness, approaching the village with as little noise as possible. Their commander, Oberleutnant Klaus Neumann, a young clean-shaven patriot, whose ambition had already led to his promotion beyond his capability, was keen to grasp the opportunity to prove himself in this war, and confidently signalled his men forward. The men, who were far less confident, looked to Gefreiter Keller, an older, wiser man, who had seen action in North Africa and the Balkans, a man in whom they put much greater trust, even though he hadn't shaved recently. The NCO read their expressions, smiling grimly at his men when the  officer had turned away, gesturing them to follow.

Having taken the initiative from the Americans by holding them off at Cardonville, the Germans choose to buy some time by counter-attacking at St Germain. They are the attacker in an Attack/Defend scenario. Because the Americans have taken the village during Turn 4, the terrain on the table was adjusted from that set in 29, Let's Go! to allow the Germans to approach from the south. Their challenge is not insignificant. They play the game with a fresh platoon with +10 (29LG) -1 (Men's opinion) +2 (no Marders) = +11 support points, starting the game with -1 on their Force Morale roll because of overall German losses to date. The Germans select an Adjutant, a FO and 8cm mortar battery, a second Panzershreck team and an MG42 on tripod mount as support.

The Americans defend with a fresh platoon +19 (29LG) +6 (second time played) = +25 support points, which must include at least two Shermans. They select additional BARs for each team, a sniper, a FO and 60mm mortar battery, an HMG team and two Shermans.

Patrol Phase
The Americans deploy their patrol markers generally around the church and buildings in the village, and the patrol phase is swiftly over as the Germans pin down these markers with their own. Three American jump-off points are positioned near the buildings while the Germans have two in woodland and hedgerows set forward on their left flank, and one at their base table edge towards the centre right. With good dice rolls, both sides begin the game with a Force Morale of 10. The Germans take the first turn.
Oberleutnant Neumann signalled the men to halt. Crouched behind the hedge, even in the half-light of dawn he could clearly make out the church, the key strategic position in St Germain and their objective, barely fifty yards away. All that lay between it and their position was an open field and the churchyard hedge.  Looking to his left, he watched as the machine gun team set themselves in position to provide covering fire, and ordered his men across the open field ahead. The Gefreiter, encouraging his men, obediently followed, and with as much speed as they could muster without breaking silence, they advanced across the open field.

"Did you see that?", the private at the window asked the corporal. "Something in the field, there." The older man squinted through the broken window frame in the direction the private was pointing. For a moment, scanning the distance, all he could make out was the line of the hedge and the silhouette of a copse of trees against the brightening horizon. And then, in the centre of the field, he saw movement. The captain had warned them the enemy might try something exactly like this. Counterattacking at dawn: a plan straight out of the German battle manual. He pointed out the target and instructed the machine gunner to open fire.

German infantry sneak towards St Germain as the sun begins to rise
Turn 1, Phases 1-2
The Germans deploy their MMG team behind a hedge on the approach to the church, with their first infantry squad and their Senior Leader to its right, deployed as far forward towards the church as possible, in the open. The adjutant enables them to deploy without delay. The Americans respond by positioning their first infantry squad in the upper storey of the house beside the church and immediately open fire.
Having spent so much time in silence, the sudden burst of gunfire, raising spouts of dust from the dry soil around them, was alarming. The Gefreiter, though, was undeterred. He'd seen it all before, many times. Raising his arm, he pointed at the house, where irregular flashes betrayed the enemy machine gun position in an upper-storey window. The NCO smiled again, and then fell back, and stumbled to the ground clutching his arm, landing beside two of his men. They were quick to bind the wound - nothing fatal, but the Gefreiter wouldn't be taking much part in the action from now on. With disappointment, the men realised they would have to trust in the Oberleutnant's judgement from here on. In the distance, they could make out movement, and occasional shots being fired. They had lost the element of surprise.

"Forward!" the Oberleutnant ordered, and the squad scrambled the few yards ahead into the cover of the ornamental hedge lining the churchyard, their own machine gun opening up on the defenders, as gunfire rained all around.

The German mortar observer has a good view of the village
Turn 1, Phases 2-3
With a lucky result from the first shots of the game, the Junior Leader of the German first squad is  wounded, and will be unable to activate again this turn. German Force Morale falls by one point. The Americans deploy a second infantry squad in the church, positioning one BAR team in the tower. They shoot the same target inflicting a point of shock. The US Sergeant is deployed behind the hedge along the main road opposite the advancing Germans and the first Sherman at the end of the road on the US left flank. The German FO is deployed with a field of view toward the village, away from the main German force. The German Senior Leader removes one point of shock and advances the first squad to take cover behind the hedge along the churchyard edge, while the MMG returns fire at the church tower, inflicting one point of shock. The German second infantry squad are deployed to the right behind the hedge line and open fire on the troops in the house, killing one.
As the first rays of the morning sun brightened the horizon, between bursts of machine gun fire the radio man in the clock tower reported the situation to his commanding officer.
"Twenty - no, thirty Germans, advancing from the south-west, to the east of the copse, sir" he confirmed. "One squad is almost at the church already. How did they get so far forward?"
The BAR team beside him fired again, watching one of the enemy below fall as they crossed the hedge into the churchyard.

The radio went dead, ended by an explosion of bullets and stone chips that killed three men, silencing the gun in the tower. Behind the hedge, the German machine gun steamed as the morning dew lifted. The tower silenced, as they crossed the hedge and crouched amongst gravestones, the German mood had improved. Perhaps the enthusiasm of this young officer was infectious - with blood dripping from the side of his head where he had been clipped by an enemy bullet,  he certainly had luck on his side. And they had made it across the field and the church door was only a few yards away across  the churchyard. Behind them, on their left flank, another squad of Grenadiers was advancing across the field in support. The omens were good.

The Germans advance rapidly towards the church...
...taking heavy fire as US forces become more organised
Turn 1, Phases 4-5
As the Sherman advances along the road towards the bridge, the Americans fire again, killing one man in the German 1st squad and with another lucky hit on the Senior Leader, who takes a light wound that reduces his Command Initiative by 1 and reducing German Force Morale by another point. Despite this, the German Senior Leader advances the 1st squad over the hedge up to the church and removes the point of shock. The German 3rd squad is then deployed into the open field on the left. The Germans concentrate their fire on the church tower and kill all men in the BAR team. American force morale falls by one point.


American armor approaches
Stretching up from the cupola, scanning the area ahead with binoculars, the tank commander took in the scene. The gunfire was on the other side of the village, beyond the church. As the Sherman rode the crest of a small bridge, the could make out American infantry moving rapidly along the road up ahead, taking defensive positions on the left hand side, as they fired at the unseen enemy.
In the fields, unaware of the American armour approaching, the German advance continued. The infantry covering the left flank were taking heavy fire, but in the centre, they had reached their objective.
Wiping blood from the side of his face, machine pistol at the ready, Oberleutnant Neumann gave the order: "Handgranaten!" The Grenadiers charged, bursting through the church doors, their entrance heralded by the explosion of two grenades. But the last words of the radio man in the tower had been heard, and the Americans were ready. Behind overturned pews, they met their enemy with a strong defence. The Germans fell in the doorway, their only survivor the young officer, who somehow managed to escape and make it back to the distant hedge line alive.  Inside the devastated church, the high price the Americans had paid for victory had been high, the two men who remained unscathed tending their wounded friends.

Turn 1, Phases 6-7
The American 3rd squad is deployed to face the threat of the German 3rd squad, who come under heavy fire, taking one point of shock and losing two men, but continue their advance across the open field. The Sherman moves up the road and crosses the bridge. The Germans request mortar support. The German Senior Leader orders his men to assault the church, calling for Handgranaten and charging in. Their entire squad bar the Senior Leader is wiped out, while the Americans lose all but the Junior Leader and 1 soldier with a BAR. The German Senior Leader flees back to comparative safety. German Force Morale falls by two more points.


The mortar barrage offers some support to the German counterattack
In that moment, the momentum of battle shifted. Either side of the church, American infantry in strong defensive positions put down a hail of fire on the Germans, stalling their advance. In the open field, the Grenadiers hit the dirt, despite the cover of the hedge line only a few yards ahead.
"Get up! Get up!" their NCO shouted, kicking and dragging men in the direction of the hedge. "Stay here and you'll die here!" But his shouting had no effect, and as bullets hit the ground all around, too many hitting their targets, the NCO fell to the earth, clipped in the thigh by enemy fire.

To their right, around the church, smoke was rising as German mortar fire landed nearby. The men crouching in the field looked hopefully towards the barrage. If the smoke came closer they might be given the opportunity to retire in safety.

Behind the hedge, German soldiers were having similar thoughts. The fire coming from the distant buildings had increased its intensity and was taking a toll. Their young commander, disregarding his own wounds as well as those of his men, was unwilling to order a withdrawal, but the decision was taken out of his hands only moments later as a stray bullet found his forehead and he fell dead to the ground. And as the wind blew mortar smoke across the front that separated them from their enemy, abandoning their guns and ammunition, those men that could get away fell back towards safety in disarray.

German forces fall back after the failed assault, but not fast enough
Turn 1, Phases 8-15
US forces open fire, killing 1 man and inflicting 2 points of shock on the German 3rd squad and killing 1 man and dealing out 4 points of shock on the 2nd squad, while the Sergeant removes 1 point of shock from the survivors in the church. The Germans press on, but roll a double 1 when advancing the 3rd squad, which because of accrued shock means they do not move at all. As the German Senior Leader attempts to control the accumulation of shock, German mortars begin firing - on target but to no effect. The American FO deploys as the Americans continue to shoot. The German 3rd squad, caught in the open, over two phases suffers 4 casualties, 2 points of shock, and their Junior Leader receives a light wound, while the 2nd squad receives a further 3 points of shock. German Force morale falls dangerously low and their central jump-off point is removed. Unable to control the build-up of shock, contemplate withdrawal but decide to fight on for one more phase, their shooting and mortar barrage inflicting 1 casualty and 3 points of shock on the Americans. The Americans then roll 2 sixes, and concentrate their fire over two phases. The German 2nd squad suffers 1 casualty and 2 points of shock, and their mortar barrage is requested and arrives on target, killing the German Senior Leader. German Force Morale is reduced to 0 and the game ends.
----------------
Colonel Goode was woken early when the news arrived. An unexpected German counterattack on the left flank had been repelled. Again, Major Foster had done well. He needed reliable men like that; the Major's promotion prospects were looking good. Less nervous than when he had gone to bed, he called in his aide to give the order for the men to continue their advance. The road to Isigny was clear.

The counterattack at St Germain-du-Pert may have been repelled, but it had succeeded in its primary purpose, to gain time. American forces had been slow to advance along the causeway, and were still some distance from the bridge at Isigny, but the Germans need even more time than this to complete their escape.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The Making Of Drax Returns!

In the last post I reported on the 7TV2 game we ran at Vanquish 2018. This post is all about how the set for that game was created.

Drax's secret base
And from a different camera angle
With the intent of hosting a 7TV2 participation game at Vanquish and about six weeks of preparation time available I decided the most generally accessible plot line and casts would be something James Bond-ish (everyone knows James Bond) and so the obvious idea was to set the scene for a raid on a Supervillain's lair.

I needed to consider the following:
  • The setup must look good. I wanted to attract spectators and participants and inspire and enthuse those who passed by as well as those interested enough to play;
  • Including space for cards, dice etc it would need to fit on a 4x4 playing area - in the event, the table was larger, but this was the original brief I was given;
  • The game would use profile cards taken straight out of the basic set. I wanted to make minimal changes to the basic game other than those to make it work on the day;
  • The game would need to be short in duration and high on action. The intent would be to give people a taste for the game and its rules without needing to take up too much of their time, and generally promote the rules. I was aiming at keeping people playing for no more than an hour and a half. On the day no game lasted longer than this and most were done in around one hour;
  • I didn't want to spend a fortune on materials, and it would need to be put together in my limited spare time. It would also need to be ready sufficiently is advance to allow for play testing.
  • I needed to get all the figures painted and based in time. With different casts I could have used figures I had already finished but I also wanted to use the event as a catalyst to get some more painting done! In the end all but two of the figures used were painted specifically for the day, plus all the furniture;
  • The scenery would need to be modular so that it could be transported and stored;
  • The scenery would ideally also be versatile enough to be used for other casts and scenarios for games played after Vanquish. A modular setup allows for a certain amount of flexibility when repurposing the scenery for other scenarios by adding new bits and swapping old ones out.

After a lot of thought (heavily influenced by other sets I have seen and admired) I decided on creating a stronghold  of some sort, a walled structure with internal buildings. With a little imagination this might serve as all sorts of locations. If painted in grey it could pass for concrete or stone and with any base areas painted in brown shades it could easily sit in a variety of settings, from desert or jungle to mountain top or even the polar regions, and of course could be adaptable to all sorts of different casts.

The structure was first assembled out of cardboard in six separate components. Buildings within these areas would be solid structures with no access to internal rooms (taking buildings apart during a participation game was to be avoided). A series of ramps allowed several options for routes around and into the structure via the central courtyard, flat roofs and walkways, as well as walls that could be climbed, and gave the whole set more visual impact because of its vertical scale.

For ease of play, and so that I wouldn't need to take them apart during the show, building interiors would mostly be inaccessible. Clearly such areas were off-set and no filming would take place there. But one corner would represent a few rooms within the Supervillain lair itself. The top of this would remain roofless and open so that internal rooms could be represented and furniture added, and maybe even the villain confronted in his lair.

Two other corners would contain things that might be alternative objectives or just visual dressing. One would have a helipad and the other a radio mast (my original idea was for a gun battery or missile silo but constructing this would have substantially exceeded my available time!)

Construction of the main elements

Each of the six main elements of the set was constructed with a basic frame of cardboard taken from boxes and Amazon packaging, with added flat surfaces and raised detail made from card and foamboard.

Each element was based on 3mm MDF cut to appropriate size. Papier-mache was used to strengthen and cover gaps. Surface details including closed doors, windows, and raised edges were made from card and mounting board. Some minor adjustments were made using foamboard and Milliput to make better joins between different elements - cardboard has an unfortunate tendency to warp.

Element #1
Element #2
Element #3, with helipad
Element #4
Element #5
Element #6, gatehouse, from the front
And from the rear
Building walls were textured with a filler, sand and chinchilla dust mix, while flat areas were textured with chinchilla dust only. When complete, each element was toughened and sealed with PVA.

The whole building was painted with a matt grey primer, to simulate stone or concrete, and dry-brushed with a paler grey. Floor areas and some vertical walls were painted with a different grey to add contrast. The interior of windows were painted black and doors picked out in an appropriate shade of grey. Base areas on the ground were painted in Crown Cappuccino matt emulsion and highlighted with Crown Brown Sugar.

Base cloth

The basecloth
I made a bespoke base cloth for the set from a cut piece of table protector (about 3mm thick material that you would normally put under your tablecloth to protect your table from hot dishes). I painted the underside of this with a thick layer of Crown Cappuccino onto which I generously sprinkled chincilla dust. This was left to dry to make a textured painted surface (the chincilla dust absorbs the colour of the paint). When dry, it was all dry-brushed with Crown Brown Sugar.


Close-up of finished base cloth texture

Helipad

After rejecting several ideas of a separate removable helipad I finally simply painted the helipad design directly onto the roof section using a home-made stencil. 


The helipad
The SHIVA copter
The helicopter is a cheap Cararama diecast model taken apart and repainted appropriately to accompany my SHIVA cast.
The SHIVA copter on the helipad

Radio Mast

This was a simple structure made from strips of foamboard and card glued together an attached to a small box on an MDF base. The box and base were textured with chinchilla dust and sealed and the whole structure spray-painted grey.


The radio mast

Open Room Section

To keep games sensibly short I limited the number of rooms, eventually settling on an entrance room (occupied by guards and a security desk), a main chamber with windows overlooking the courtyard (the supervillain's quarters), a back room connected to this (the control room in which I put a couple of scientists and computer banks), and a secure room (containing a safe). There was also a lift from which minions could enter the entrance room from within.


Open room section from the front
Open room section from the back
The walls were made from foamboard glued to an MDF base and internal doors made from card. A large window from which the supervillain could overlook the interior of the base was made from foamboard and clear plastic. The outside of this was textured with filler and chinchilla dust, and it was all painted grey.

Rooms were appropriately furnished with items from Crooked Dice, Pigeon Guard Games and Ainsty Castings.

With furniture, and various occupants
When assembled, for visual effect and to create some cover, I also added some jungle terrain elements (put together for the Congo game), areas of scatter terrain (crates and oil drums), and two jeeps.

The Casts

Finally, here are some pictures of the figures painted and used for the game.


Drax and Jaws
Bond and Bond - players could opt to be Daniel (Hasslefree, L) or Sean/Roger (Crooked Dice, right) 
Steed and Emma Peel
X-commando squad
Minions!
And more minions!