1809 Terrain 1 – Fields

My 15mm terrain collection is by now heavily geared towards the ACW. It will surprise no one that the landscape of Austria in the 1800s looked very different from the North American landscape around 1860. I did a quick research to find out how it differed from today’s Austrian landscape. Interestingly, it seems there were less hedgerows and less woods. Most of the land was of course used for agricultural purposes, the by far largest parts making up farmland. As three-field crop rotation was practiced, some fields would always lay fallow. Pastures were fewer, as livestock grazed on common land, where all the cattle of a village was driven by a herdsman in the morning and returned to their owners in the evening.

In contrast to Northern America, fields were not enclosed by fences. Fences were, however, used to enclose pastures and sometimes orchards.

The great birdseye map by Franz Xaver Schweickhardt, albeit drawn a bit later, offers a good glimpse at how the landscape looked at the time of the napoleonic wars (it’s accessible here)

This section shows the area around Parbasdorf, a village that was contested during the Battle of Wagram. The details are very neat and will be a great guide for setting up a gaming table.

So, from everything it is obvious that I need a lot of fields. I might even make a new mat with fields built in, but for the moment, I wanted to have something modular. I have some rather small ploughed fields from my medieval project, which I built out of corrugated cardboard. This time, I wanted to use cloth with acrylic paste so as to have somewhat flexible elements which can be used to recreate a more rolling landscape.

Now the 1809 campaign was fought during spring and summer, so most field would have standing crops. However, crops are rather difficult for wargaming purposes – you either have to make them removable, or you put the figures right on top of them, having them hover over the crops. I will use parts of a door mat for wheatfields, but for ease of play, most of my fields will only feature a hint of crops.

The basis for my fields was an old linen sheet. I drew the shapes with a marker, trying to make the fields modular and fit together in different ways.

I then mixed white sealing acrylic (because that’s what I had at hand) with acrylic paint and sand. Incidentally, on the acrylic cartridge it said it had expired in 2016, but I used it nonethless and had no problems. I applied the paste to the sheet with a spatula, then used a comb to create the furrows. I also sprinkled offcuts from the door mat on two fields so as to make it look like it had recently been harvested.

After cutting the fields out, I touched them up and dry brushed them. I also sparingly applied some static grass on the borders. Here’s my first attempt to create a landscape using the new fields (and some old ones):

They look ok, I guess. Because the linen sheet was thin and I also applied the acrylic thinner than I did before, the actually lie pretty flat on the table. They also accommodate better to a hilly landscape than I’d thought. All in all, I’m quite happy with them.

A New Tool

During the last two years or so, I’ve been following the advances of 3-D printing from afar. I was increasingly impressed by the performance of printers, but I was also turned off by the technical skills and patience required to set up and operate the machines.

However, in December, several factors contributed to me taking a serious look at the technology. First of all, I saw some very impressive small prints coming from resin printers in diverse Facebook groups. Secondly, with Brexit looming, it suddenly dawned on me that it would be nice to be independant of UK sellers for small items such as windows and doors. Though I want to support figure manufacturers and I’ll gladly buy figures, small stuff for scratch building can be quite expensive and adding import fees, it may no longer be feasible to order. Thirdly, AnyCubic, a manufacturer of 3-D printers, had a Christmas sale with considerable discounts. I quickly communicated with Mikko, an expert in the matter, and decided to buy a small resin printer, the Photon. It cost me 150,- Euro, plus another 80,- or so Euros for resin and assorted material such as gloves, masks, filters, alcohol to clean the prints and an UV lamp for curing.

The machine arrived a couple of days ago. Set-up was easy, but then I hit a snag when trying to make my first print. Fortunately, Mikko was kind and patient enough to help me out – thanks mate!

I’ve made two print runs so far. I did some fences, a wayside cross, a rustic toilet, windows and an apiary, which for some reasons didn’t come out correctly. The rest worked perfectly.

I’m very impressed with the details of the pieces, although the fences warped after a couple of days – maybe they were not completely cured. Anyway, they are easily straightened.

I intend to use this machine as a tool. I’m not really interested in the technical side of the thing and don’t intend to tinker more than is absolutely necessary. Fortunately, the technology seems to be at a stage were this is possible. My primary objective is to print pieces for detailing and scratch-building as well as small scatter terrain. Figures might be more complicated, but I’m not that interested in printing them at the moment.

The only annoying thing is that cleaning takes some time and is a bit of a mess. The resin smells quite badly, even though I bought the eco resin which is supposed to be less smelly – I don’t want to know what the normal stuff smells like.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress!

Building Gettysburg in 15mm

Researching scenarios for Sharp Practice from the Gettysburg campaign, I came upon the stand made by the 45th NY during the retreat of XI Corps. Men from the regiment occupied buildings and backyards in the area of the Eagle Hotel and Christ Lutheran Church and fought to buy their comrades time to make it safely to Cemetery Ridge.

This would make a great scenario for Sharp Practice. However, it would need a lot of buildings. Call me crazy, but I decided I would go for it. It’s going to be a long-term project, especially as I want to scratch-build as many of the buildings as possible.

ScenarioMap3

This is the area I want to model on the table. I decided to start with Chambersburg Street, which is the big street leading to the West from the square. Fortunately, I found a historical photograph of the Southern side of the street:

ChambersburgStr

You can see the cupola of the Lutheran Church in the background.

My main material for building the houses is plastic sheet. I also used textured sheets and windows from model railway suppliers. The roofs are made with cardboard tiles – a time-consuming work, but it looks quite good, I think.

This is my view of Chambersburg Street:

Gett_Str1

And here you can see the houses I have finished so far. These are two bases of three houses each. I decided not to base them single, because a common base ties them together better.

Here is a front and back view:

Gett_Street2

Gett_Str3

I made a mistake with the George Arnold shop (the building on the corner), but I’m not sure if I want to build the whole thing again. Maybe, when everything else is finished, I’ll reconsider.

Next up is the Eagle Hotel, then some more houses and the Lutheran Church.

ACW Camp Scenes

I’m researching and preparing yet another scenario for Sharp Practice. This one is going to be about the Union cavalry raid on Port Republic during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign in 1862. This was one of the few moments when the Union showed aggression and they almost managed to capture Stonewall Jackson himself.

The Union cavalry surprised the encamped Confederates, so I need some camp scenes for the game. I procured tents from QRF/Freikorp15 and stacked muskets from Irregular Miniatures. Incidentally, Irregular Miniatures have great stuff, but some of it is well hidden – the musket stacks are in the 15mm napoleonic section. Add a couple of crates and spare figures, and I had two camps.

 

As the Confederates were surprised, I wanted to convey frantic activity. In this scene, a drummer is beating the long roll while soldiers hurry to get into formation:

While tents look nice, I’m actually not sure the Confederates camped at Port Republic had them. Maybe they only had bedrolls and slept under the open sky like this guy:

sleeping

So I made another scene where I tried to model sleeping soldiers with green stuff. The results are, I have to say, somewhat mixed. But they look ok is looked at from a distance, like it is usually the case when actually playing a game.

It’s been fun making those scenes and I’m looking forward to testing the scenario.

Oh, also painted up the strange man himself – Stonewall Jackson from Peter Pig’s new range of ACW generals. I painted him in his old blue VMI coat, so this is a portrait from early in the campaign, which is strictly speaking not correct for Port Republic. But at least he is mounted on Little Sorrel!

swj