Monday, December 29, 2014

Tidying Up...

Additions to the inventory of the Raesharn Imperial Army.
The FlaK vehicle need a bit of work...
Whilst my next BB4ST posting is still in draft - piccies: need piccies - I have been doing a bit of a tidy up and cull of the enormous quantities of paper that I have accumulated over several millenia aeons decades, full of mathematical and arithmetical calculations (I never use a calculator: tending to forget that I have one until the batteries turn septic and kill off the tech; this of course makes me a Bad Person), ideas for rule sets, orders of battle, battle maps and scenario designs... all sorts of garbage, really.

Early repairs/ modifications to the FlaK vehicle - I think
I'll call it a Walrus Class AFV.
Yesterday I was forced (grin) to suspend operations when Brian (A Fistful of Plastic) phoned.  Still in the throes of packing for his move permanently to the North Island, he later dropped by (with his sister) with a few items surplus to his requirements.  His sister (I was introduced but have this anti-Napoleonic thing with names: I can't remember them.  Most embarrassing, so my apologies are heartfelt), Brian told me, had scanned my miniature b+w silhouette pictures of British, Colonial and Maori soldiery into machine-readable files.  I'm still looking forward to seeing what he does with those.

Potential in potentia: what will these become?  Buildings
ships of war? Bridges?  
The FlaK vehicle was badly in need of TLC - the guns had been torn apart and the road wheels were flush with the side skirts; the thing wants its tracks, and probably drive and return sprockets as well. The guns have been rejoined and reinforced, and as the trunnions were very loose, the twin mount has been glued in an elevated position. Had I my wits about me, I would have carved of a tiny bit of the bottom rear corner for a firmer hold. That the guns would have been elevated slightly higher as a result would have been no bad thing.  A plastic strip glued along the bottom 'edge' of the side skirt now gives a better impression of the road wheels behind them.  I think that at some time this vehicle had been earmarked to stand as a wreck: a couple of holes have been driven in on the left hand side of the turret.  Not sure yet how to fix that.  Ideas?  The Patton tank will be a welcome addition to my Raesharn 'Heavy Tank' platoon...

Different thinknesses, too.  Plenty of scope for
But for sheer potential, here is the real treasure. I can only surmise Brian did not envisage himself making any use of all this lovely balsa sheets any time soon, probably owing to lack of time.  I admit I don't use it all that much myself, but I can see all kinds of possibilities here!  Parkinson's Law, you see, or a corollary of it.  If I have it, it will be used.  Eventually.

Hand drawn and hand painted Confederate battle flags.  The
nearest 3  are the Army of Northern Virginia version of the
 Genl Beauregard designed flag. The central figure of these is
of course a Louisiana Tiger, the slough hat trimmed into a fez.
Brian asked about how I designed my flags, especially the skewing to improve the 'drape'. Occasionally I hand draw flags, but that is really possible only with fairly simple designs (for a given value of 'simple'). E.g. these ACW images.  Could they be 'Photo-Shopped'?   I don't know.

The Army of Northern Virginia flags of the three Louisiana regiments in the foreground were hand drawn (with the help of a ruler) onto paper, and coloured with felt pen (the type used for overhead projectors).  The stars were painted on.  There is a trick to that.  You need a brush with a very fine point, and you make a shape like the 'anarchist' A without the circle. A little delicate 'filling in' yields a very satisfactory star.  
Left hand view.  The nearest two were fashioned from two 'spare'
Airfix advancing figures with the firearm cut away, the left arm
trimmed down, and bent up using the hot water technique.  I then
drilled through the hand with a pin and shoved in a wire flagstaff.
It is true that these flags are over-scale.  The ANV flags were 4ft square, and even then were large by the ... erm ...standards of other CSA armies.  Mine look to be scaled  25-50% larger in linear dimensions.  The Union flags were much larger, 6ft in the hoist at least. The white flags of my Texican regiments were painted back in the '80s on, I think, milk-bottle top (don't you miss home deliveries?).  They are even more over-scale, flags of the Western armies being more rectangular than the square ANV ones, and only 3ft to 3ft 6in in the hoist, at that.  However, the canton being so small I didn't attempt 5-pointer stars, but satisfied myself with four-pointers instead.  They look more stellar at that than dots would have been.
Close up of ANV Confederate flag bearer.  The figure was
originally Airfix  Union, one of those running figures with left hand
 raised. He makes a very fine flag-bearer, especially if you can drill
through the upraised hand, as here. 
But I don't think I skewed these flags, or if I did, it wasn't by much.  Could the pictured flag be photo-shopped into a more 'regular' image?  It begins to look feasible.

During the weekend, I bethought me to start making ensigns for all my ACW riverine vessels.  Rather than hand draw these, I hunted around for some pictures of ACW ensigns, and downloaded them (select image, copy and paste onto a 'Word' file).  Printed (size didn't matter) and scanned (I have an ink-jet scanner/printer - excellent device) to create a .jpg file.  Then from this file you select the picture and open with Windows Paint.  Say what you like about Microsoft Windows (and I have done in no uncertain terms), I do like this piece of software: so handy for making flags (and for labelling on battlefield photos).
Flags as copied from an online source onto a 'Word' file, and
then printed and scanned onto a .jpg file.  There may be more
 efficient methods, but this I know works.
Using 'Paint' I can go from the above picture to the multiple images below with comparatively little effort - certainly less than hand drawing the things.  The red background behind the Union ensign was a result of hitting a wrong button at the wrong time, but as it didn't affect anything (except use up red ink), I didn't bother to remove it.  
The 'Paint' work space transformed with multiple copies of
the respective CSA and USA ensigns.  With 35 stars, the latter
is subsequent to W.Va's statehood; and the sole 'stainless' CSA
 ensign will be flown by scratchbuilt CSS Tennessee.
You begin by separating out the flags as scanned and dragging them over to the right hand side of the work space.  It is not a bad idea to re-size smaller at this point so as to get images onto one screen where they are easier to move around and to see what you are doing.  Then select a flag image, copy and paste next to the original, leaving a narrow gap.  Now select and flip the left-hand side of the image pair (it's part of the 'rotate' menu). Select the left hand image and 'skew vertical' (part of the 'resize' menu) any number of degrees you feel OK with.  For these I chose a 10-degree skew, but have used 5-degrees and as much as 15-degrees.  Often I'll vary (from flag to flag, of course) just for the sake of variety. Then select the right hand side and do a 'negative' skew (minus10 degrees, say).
Before and after ...
The gap between the skewed images I filled in with the nearest approximation the software's available palette, not concerned at the difference from the flag image colours, as shown below.  This gap is to wrap around the jack-staff or halyard, say.  I suggest a 3mm gap, but really just fudged it here.  A closer look suggests I could have chosen a darker blue for the sleeve of the Union flag, but it will do fine as is.
The reason for the gap between the inverted image and its
original: to wrap around the flagpole.  That the filler colours
differ from the originals has to do with the supplied
palette, but for mine makes no odds.
It is a good idea to preview before printing to make sure the flags are about the size you want.  The above array turned out to be fine for ensigns for my gunboats.  I might have preferred them a thought larger for my Airfix infantry, say, but for them I would have begun with a different image anyhow. Incidentally, you can stretch and compress the images to fit your requirements.

The box in the following picture contains 6x27-figure Regiments of Union Infantry, whose flags were hand drawn over the last weekend. The original flags I had made were quite unsatisfactory; the tin foil was looking very tired, one had never even been painted, and another was carrying a bare, unpainted pole.  I much prefer paper flags anyhow.  These had to be drawn to fit the staffs, and that was not easy: the yellow border 1mm wide all round, and the stripes each 1.5mm - a total, then, of 21.5mm in the hoist.  Now, the thing with skewing is that it makes the flag seem longer (which in fact it is, measured along the fly). I measured the horizontal width at 20mm, and dropped the outer corners by 10mm (quite a deep skew: arctan0.5, whatever that comes to!  Over 26-degrees, you say? Well, there you go!)  A bit rough in the execution, but they don't look too bad... at this distance...
Two brigades of Union Infantry - all Airfix.  Its commander
began life as an Airfix Cowboy.
Of course, I didn't even try to paint 34 or 35 stars on these flags, but rather tried for an impression of lots of stars.  I have occasionally been intrigued by the mathematics behind designing arrays for the cantons.  Thirty-five stars can simply be drawn as a 5x7 (5 rows of 7) array, but what about 34?  It is a 4x5 array with a 3x4 array nested within it; an extra star top and bottom of the middle column of stars.  But i didn't do this.  A 2x4 nested within a 3x5 array have the effect I wanted.  Occasionally I'll vary by placing several stars in a circle.

Meanwhile, the sort of thing I've been tidying up, before I was so courteously and generously interrupted, is shown in the following pictures, although these are more select, shall we say, and may well be retained.  These date from a time when I lacked the equipment for war games photography. First, a selection of Napoleonic battles: a refight of Thann in the early 1990s using 15mm figures and a rule set adapted from Paddy Griffiths' Napoleonic War Games for Fun; a refight of Castalla using my rules (I was Marshal Suchet); the first battle of a fictitious campaign in northern France (Napoleon having been spirited out of St Helena by a desperate band of former Old Guardsmen); and a pick-up Peninsular War action.
Junk or a valued archival record?  Several Napoleonic battle maps
from more than 20 years ago.  Wooh.
What follows is a closer view of the First Battle of Rheims, 8 February 1816.  Commanding the French was Rodger (Rebel Barracks; Jacko, Painting Little Soldiers had the British in this campaign). Although the nominal figure scale was 1:25, they counted as 1:100 just to make the campaign numbers look a bit more ... erm ... comme il faut.  My Austrian Army had to be augmented by two battalions of Brunswickers even to reach the modest total of 190 figures (19,000).  The 'all in action' in the centre was as exciting cut-and-thrust as it looks from the diagram: the Austrians lost half their artillery overrun, for which the Uhlans took drastic vengeance; a Brunswicker battalion was ridden down when it failed to maintain its square (I had forgotten my own rules, which allowed the square to move, however slowly); and, despite the overall Austrian defeat on this occasion, the Hohenzollern-Hechingen Kuirassiere established an ascendancy over the French cavalry that endured for the entire campaign.  

First Battle of Rheims.  The Austrians ran into more
trouble than they expected, and had eventually to
yield the palm the the enemy.
A busy few days.  In my less active moments (I must mow the lawn this pip emma) I have been enjoying the fourth in the series of Pratchett, Stewart and Cohen's Science of Discworld. Factsinating! - though you might come away with the notion that the world of Science Academia is less given to acrimonious controversy than it usually often is.  Not that that is its central thesis of course.  I'm never fully clear where the authors stand on religion as such.  It is not clear they draw any distinction between religion as an expression of wonder to be shared, or religion as expressions of dogma to be imposed.  Not religious myself,  I can see from an outside perspective that such a distinction ought to come into consideration.  They do mention, though, the US evangelist and proselyte who claimed that scientists had found God by looking through the Large Hadron Kaleidoscope (Colliderscope?).
Food for thought - even though reading these days
sends me to sleep.


  1. Your game maps are definitely NOT junk! Beautiful, archival treasures if you ask me. If you don't want to save them, please send them on to me!

    1. It's a nice idea, Jonathan, though what I showed here were some of the more ... finished ... maps, and only the Napoleonics at that. But somehow you have given me the idea of scanning them into a series of galleries. Many of the maps are of historical battles and scenarios therefrom that I have yet to try out. Maybe we can discuss this further some time?

  2. Haven't seen those maps for many years Ion! Very enjoyable games as I recall too!

    1. Oddly enough, the only other one I found of the series was the Second Rheims battle. The others seem to have disappeared. I still have somewhere about the Southern Sortie magazines in which the campaign narrative appeared, though.

  3. Good on Brian. Mate those maps are so good you should frame them!

    1. Brian's a good man, all right. As for the maps, I think my intention was to archive them. I have thrown away some of the DBM battle maps (I won considerably more games with my Byzantines than I lost; my Abasgians (Georgians) had a reasonable plus score, but my Bulgars of Tsar Samuel had a record of +2, =2, -17: a very unlucky army). But some battles I did colourful maps for, and there were occasionally very interesting ones.

      But thanks the encouraging comments here, I'm now thinking of going through them and making a proper archive...