Tuesday, August 30, 2022

It's Sudan Terrain Week


My City of Khartoum diorama.

This week will see me setting my paint brushes and figures aside so that I can focus on making terrain pieces for my Sudan Project. I want to start getting an idea of how the whole Historicon '23 game will look on the table top and new terrain bits and pieces are needed.

This week actually began with a major reorganization of my basement game room. I have a main game table measuring 6ft by 14ft and a secondary table measuring 6ft by 7ft. The secondary table holds the complete City of Khartoum set up (walls, gate towers, houses and other buildings) and I had left it there as a diorama that I could look at or show off to visitors at our house. However, I needed the area around the second table so that I could set up another 6ft by 14ft table running parallel to the main game table.

The dockside area of Khartoum complete with Nile River gunboats.

This entailed putting all of the Khartoum buildings away so that I could clear off the table and start moving tables around. I looked underneath the table and realized that I had more junk stored there than I had imagined. If I was going to start rearranging tables, the junk underneath had to go somewhere. The other half of my basement is a finished TV room and so I decided to move everything into that room. That job took me a couple of hours. Yikes!

The secondary table has been cleared of Khartoum on the top and all of the flotsam and jetsam underneath.
I like the look of a clean and tidy game table.

All of the Khartoum buildings had to go somewhere, so I set up a 
temporary pair of tables where I could place all of the terrain.

Now that the space was cleared, I could rearrange the tables and create a table parallel to the main game table.

I found that I didn't have enough width to set up the second table as a 6ft wide table, so I placed four 2.5ft by 6ft tables in the long direction to create a narrower 5ft by 12ft table. As you can see in the picture below, I now have a vast open desert to game with my 54mm Sudan figures.

Now I have two 6ft by 12ft tables running parallel.
The gap between the tables does not exist in terms of the movement of figures. I've subsequently decided to move the terrain storage boxes from the corner of the game room to another area to be determined. This will add an extra two feet of movement area behind the table for gamers at my house.

This afternoon I decided to put Khartoum back on the table to give me an idea of how it might look when I run my Khartoum! game at Historicon 2023. I placed the city in one of the corners because the rear areas of the city were the Blue Nile and the White Nile coming together to form the Nile River. Contrary to what the Khartoum movie shows, the Dervish did not attack Khartoum from the rear using river boats. This area was not attacked at all so I don't feel the need to add much of the riverside terrain behind the city. 

New Khartoum on my game table.

This version of Khartoum is a little bit smaller than the original version, I had to leave out 3-4 buildings to squeeze the city into the corner of my game table. When I set the city up for the Historicon 2023 game, I plan to put Khartoum in the middle of one of the 6ft by 15ft tables. This will create a wider frontage of the city and allow for more players to scale the walls with ladders.

Now the heading of this post indicates that this is Terrain Week at Chez Fritz so I will be spending lots of time building Acacia trees, a donga or wadi or two, maybe some railroad track beds and some rocky hills. I made 8 stands of Acacia trees yesterday, using bits from plastic artificial plants that I bought at Michael's Stores. The flower part pulls right off of the stem without using scissors. I used a 3-inch round circle base and drilled a hole through the center of the base. A rat tail file made the hole wide enough to fit the flower stem. The stem was inserted into the hole and affixed with some hot glue. Waiting about 15 minutes to make sure that the glue had dried, I then troweled some wall board paste (Red Devil Premixed Light Weight Spackle) over the base and sprinkled it with some Woodland Scenics fine railroad ballast.

New Khartoum from the front elevation.

I have also been experimenting with making railroad track beds. I made one sample section of track, gluing the track to an eighth inch thick piece of basswood and then troweling the wall board past between the sleeper ties. The problem is that this caused the wood to warp, so I will have to find another material for the base of the track bed. Hopefully one that won't warp.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

British Camel Corps Arrives, And HOW!


Yesterday I finished 12 more 54mm Armies In Plastic British Camel Corps figures. I now have 40 mounted Camel Corps ("CC") figures and 4 pack camels. My goal is to paint 60 CC and 8 pack camels for my Historicon 2023 war game. The idea is to have one mounted CC figure for each dismounted CC figure that I have.

So what does one do when one suddenly has 40 large 54mm Camel Corps figures? Why we have a parade!

I added two Trophy of Wales metal Camel Corps command figures: the officer in the blue tunic and the gentleman carrying the colors. I have them formed up seven across in six rows.

CC command group. The two figures in the center are metal figures
from Trophy of Wales.

A wider view of the desert table top. The column of Camel Corps are
venturing out into the desert where Dervish cavalry await them.

This photo kind of reminds me of the famous painting of the Camel Corps that seemingly had an endless frontage.

Here's the Director's Cut photograph, showing some of the behind the scenes set up:

I think that I need more blue sky felt to extend the back drop.

More to come within a few weeks. I have reordered another dozen or so CC figures from AIP this week. I wonder if I should dress some of the figures in red coats?

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Big Train Has Arrived in the Sudan Project


Bachmann G Scale locomotive and coal tender. 
This is G Scale size.

My Bachmann locomotive and coal tender arrived yesterday. They are in G Scale which is the largest train scale, with the trains typically used outdoors in gardens. All G Scale brands seem to be compatible with track made by LGB. The different cars are supposed to be compatible, except for one little thing: they all have different coupling attachments. This means that for now, I can't hook my LGB flat car up with my Bachmann coal tender. Apparently one can buy a kit that allows one to change out the coupling knuckle for one that is compatible with another brand. So I will have to make a trip to the local model train shop to get some help on this. However, for now, this is not a big problem.

I think that next week might be devoted to making terrain and one of the projects will be to imbed the sleeper ties into a terrain base which should help with the visual look of the train and help to lower its profile relative to the size of the 54mm figures.

Here are some pictures that I took yesterday:

The engine looks like I can use "as is", but I plan to do a little bit of conversion work on the coal tender, such as covering over the "Vanderbilt" name and replacing the coal with dark ballast material. That might have to wait another week because I went to focus more on ground terrain pieces.

Friday, August 26, 2022

52 Weeks To Historicon - the Sudan Project



Here is just a quick note to let everyone know that I have added a new page to this blog. If you look at the top of the page, underneath the headline picture of Frederick the Great, you will see a "Home" button and a "52 Weeks to Historicon 2023" button that takes you to page two of this blog.

My regular posts will continue to be on the Home Page so that part doesn't change. The "52 Weeks, etc." button will have a weekly update on my Historicon 2023 game preparation. My Historicon game will be "Khartoum!" in case you haven't figured that out yet.

So every Friday or Saturday I will post a summary of what I did or accomplished for the Khartoum game. Blogger does not seem to allow me to post more than one post on the second page so the weekly summary is one very long post. You will have to scroll down to the end of the post each week to read about the progress. I will likely add some additional pages as the weeks pass by because 52 updates in one post is going to be difficult to follow. I may divide the 52 week period into quarters or thirds, which will allow me to shorten the overall length of the post


Camel Corps week is going very well as of today, Friday. I have painted 12 camels and 6 riders are completed and glossed. I have 6 more riders to finish and hopefully they should be finished by this evening.

I did an inventory of the number of dismounted Camel Corps figures that I have and the number has grown to a staggering 64 figures! My plan is for each soldier to have a corresponding soldier riding a camel. When the Camel Corps reaches a destination or is forced to dismount for the purpose of fighting, then I will remove the mounted camels from the table and lay out the dismounted figures on the table. I will place maybe 6 camels laying down in the center of the Camel Corps square to represent the camels of the regiment.

So I will have 40 mounted Camel Corps by tomorrow, which means that I have another 20 to 24 mounted CC figures to paint. I may limit the CC to 60 figures (15 figures on each side of a square).

Monday, August 22, 2022

It’s Camel Corps Week!


This week’s fox is the painting of a dozen Armies In Plastic British Camel Corps figures. These will bring my mounted CC contingent to 40 figures. My goal is to eventually have 50 to 60 mounted Camel Corps figures to align with a similar number of dismounted CC figures. 

The idea is that my mounted Camel Corps will move across the wargame table. Stop and dismount. Then form square to fight the Dervish attack. Below are some pictures of the AIP Camel Corps that I painted back in 2020.

CC troops did not fight on their camels like horse cavalry, but rather, the camel served as a vehicle to quickly move from Point A to Point B. There the CC soldiers would dismount and fight on foot. By the way, the CC soldiers did force their camels to the ground to be used as protection from Dervish bullets. The camels were collected and held in the center of the battle square.

I am looking forward to painting more camels this week and adding them to my forces. I primed the figures last night so that I will have them ready to paint today.


I have added a new page to my blog, titled "52 Weeks to Historicon '23". Click on the page tab at the top of this blog so that you can see a weekly summary of the progress that I am making on my Sudan Project and Khartoum game for Historicon next year.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Giving Old Britain's Figures A Make Over


The original Mountain gun crew figure is on the right

The other day I was in between painting projects, waiting for the primer to dry on some figures that I planned to paint, so instead, I started playing around with repainting some of the old Britain's British Mountain Artillery gun and crew. What caused this was the need to paint a "bat man" to accompany a personality figure (me) that I am sending off to Fort Rexford, which is under the command of the delightful Claude B. I have about 20 of the Mountain Gun crew figures so I selected a handful of the more beaten up ones and decided to give them new uniforms.

The figure on the left in each picture is a British Camel Corps uniform, the red coat is a Guards uniform, the khaki is a generic British khaki uniform, and the dark blue is a Royal Artillery uniform. The original Britain's figure is on the far right in each photo.

I am still trying to decide on whether to gloss coat the figures in the old Britain's style or leave them with a matte finish. I really like the matte finish, but using gloss on a Britain's figure makes sense and could be quite compelling. I might paint one more figure and give it a gloss coating to see what it looks like.

Next Week's Painting Schedule

I have another 16 plastic Sudanese soldiers to paint this week and this will build the regiment up to three companies of 16 figures for a total of 48 figures. These will likely be finished within the next two days.

I might experiment with painting the flat car for the Sudan Rail Road project and the sleepers (ties) could use a coat of paint over the plastic pieces.

Future Painting Schedule

I need more Beja warriors and I have enough figures to paint another unit of 50 figures. I need to clip off the swords and replace them with pin swords before I paint them, so this takes an extra bit of time in order to het them going.

I have 20 Ansar Riflemen ready to paint.

Also another dozen mounted Camel Corps figures. That reminds me, I need to buy more of the Armies In Plastic Camel Corps set that includes 2 pack camels and 2 troopers. The pack camels will come in handy for the scenario from the movie Khartoum where Gordon ventures out of the city to forage for food and other edible supplies.

54mm Republican Romans and Carthaginians are also in the painting queue.

Somewhere along the line I will probably take a break from painting 54mm figures and paint some more Minden Austrians and Prussians.

Friday, August 19, 2022

Bell Tents & Sudanese Regulars


A couple of Bell Tents arrived yesterday, made Britains for their Zulu War figure range, and I immediately sent them to the Egyptian outpost in these pictures. I was gobsmacked by the size of these tents whose diameter is 8-inches. They take up a lot of real estate to say the least, but they look good.

This past week I have been painting Sudanese regulars in the Egyptian army and I have two companies of 16 figures (32 figures total) completed as of this writing. I am using the same Armies In Plastic Egyptian figures, but give them dark skin, blue trousers, tan fezzes, and green collars and cuffs. I can't confirm whether or not the uniform colors that I've used are accurate. I went by the color scheme of some Trophy of Wales Sudanese troops.

The uniform distinctions that I have painted will make it easier to identify Egyptians from Sudanese on the table top. For now, I use movement trays that hold 8 figures in two ranks (4x2 =8) and two trays equal one "company" of 16 figures. I have three companies in a regiment (16 x 3 = 48 figures) for my Egyptian Army regiments. Eventually I might increase the size to a total of 62 figures (16 x 4 = 62). This compares to Mahdist war bands of 60 to 100 figures.

The next issue, to be discussed at a later date, is how many figures should comprise a "square" of Egypt

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Oh Dear, What Have I Done Now?


Egyptian Krupp gun mounted on a G Scale railroad flatbed car.
Heritage Camerons provide some support.

Click on all images to enlarge

I was looking at one of Dave Docherty's pictures of his 28mm Sudan game (aren't those Perry figures wonderful?) and noticed that he had a train, tracks and various workers laying new railroad track in the Sudan. So naturally the thought of adding an electric train to my 54mm Sudan Project started whispering in my ear (do it! do it! you know you want to). Here is a link to Dave's fine blog One Man And His Brushes .

Carlo Pagano offers another outstanding Sudan blog:    With Pyjamas Through the Desert . Carlo is the author of the "Sands of the Sudan" rules, which have their origins from Peter Gilder's Wargames Holiday Centre.

Both of these blogs are a must see if you have an interest in the Sudan campaigns of the 1880s and 1890s. The modeling and creativity of both men are truly inspirational.

Dave Docherty's Sudan game at Partizan this year.
Dave is the source of much of my Sudan inspiration.
(Photo by Dave)

So I started an investigation of train scales and sizes that might be compatible with 54mm and 60mm toy soldier figures . It turns out that "G Scale" is a very close match to my Sudan figures. G Scale is the largest size of model/hobby trains and it is often used for outdoors track setups in one's garden.

Yesterday I visited a local railroad train hobby store to get the lowdown on G scale versus O scale (the next size smaller). I brought several wargame figures with me to see how they looked with the two different scales. G scale was the obvious winner, so I bought four sections of railroad track and one LGB flatcar so that I can put them on my game table and see how they look with my 54mm figures.

Take a look for yourself:

And these:

The Egyptian artillery crew and Krupp gun are from the Britains "War Along The Nile" range of 54/60mm figures for the campaign to rescue Charles Gordon at Khartoum. The Cameron Highlanders are from a company called Heritage, if I recall correctly. Another company called Little Legion also makes suitably sized figures that are similar to the old Trophy of Wales figures. It looks to my eye that all of my metal toy soldiers look perfectly at home with the G scale railroad rolling stock. The 54mm Armies In Plastic figures look a little on the small size, in so far as the cars are high above ground, but I think that they will work as they look just fine standing on the train models.

Well, if I'm going to have an electric train set on my game table, then I certainly must have it in working order. Fortunately, track can be set up in a "point to point" arrangement so that I could have a straight line of track going down the length of my game table. It would look a bit silly to have an oval layout on the table and the extra track would take up too much space (as if the train models don't take up a lot of space). 

The rolling stock and engines are approximately 12-inches in length so I think that a maximum of 3 to 4 cars is more than enough. I would need the locomotive engine, a coal tender and a flat bed car to carry track and ties or armed with cannon or Gatling Guns to protect the train.

I would have to decide on a brand of rolling stock to use. LGB track can be used with nearly all G scale trains. I'm told that the problem is that one brand of cars may not be compatible with the other brand in terms of hooking up the cars together. I've kind of narrowed it down to either LGB or Piko trains, both of which are made in Germany.

So am I going to add a train to my Sudan campaign? What do you think?

Painting Update:

I finished 10 more Haddendowa warriors over the weekend and now I'm started on 16 Sudanese infantry in the service of the Egyptian Army during this period. Check the running total of new figures painted for this project in the upper righthand corner.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Osman Digna Personality Figure


Osman Digna
Armies In Plastic conversion.

I decided that my army of Beja warriors needed to have a mounted leader to command them. Who better to have than Osman Digna?

Osman Digna

Osman Digna was probably one of the best military commanders of the Dervish armies of the Mahdist War (1881 to 1899). He was a follower of The Mahdi in Sudan, although some speculate that he joined the cause because the British-run government in Egypt banned slavery, and Osman Digna was a notorious slave trader.

He was a member of the Haddendoa tribe of the Beja people in eastern Sudan along the Red Sea. He raised his first army around 1883 and immediately started causing trouble by attempting to capture Suakin, the largest Sudanese port city on the Red Sea. He later captured the fort at Suakin in the same year. 

Osman Digna Biography

Osman Digna is probably best known as the one who wiped out Valentine Baker's (Baker Pasha) Egyptian army at the Battle of El Ten in 1883. This caused Britain to send an army under General Graham to the area to rescue the situation and regain control of the area for Egypt. Graham defeated Osman Digna's army at the second Battle of El Ten, but with great difficulty. That was followed by the Battle of Tamai, in which the Beja army broke a large British square and nearly won a great victory.

Osman Digna seems to be quite a colorful character to me and that is one of the reasons why I chose to build a Beja army

The capture of Osman Digna in 1899

Neither Armies In Plastic, Britains, or John Jenkins Designs make a 54mm figure of Osman Digna. In fact, non of them make any personality figures as far as I know, which is a shame. That being the case, it was clear that I would have to make my own figure.

So let's get on to pictures of my conversion of an Armies In Plastic figure into Osman Digna.

The figure on the left is the pose of the original figure that I used for the conversion.
This figure had its original sword removed and replaced with a wire spear (North Star spears).

The figure on the right is the converted Osman Digna figure.

The picture above (and below) compare the original Dervish cavalrymen with the converted figure.

First I cut off the wicker shield from my figure with a sharp Exacto knife (is there any other kind?) and shaved down the army and fist with the sharp blade. Next I cut the head off of a Beja foot soldier, did the same with the cavalry figure, and simply swapped out the turban clad head for Beja head.

The next step was to cut off the sword blade of the cavalry figure, making sure to leave the hilt of the sword on the figure. I took an off-cut piece of a North Star spear and trimmed it to the desired length, and then pounded it flat with a hammer and a small anvil. I drilled a hole through the hand and inserted the piece of wire to finish the sword conversion.

So far so good, but something looked a little bit off on my conversion: the left arm/hand was kind of hanging out there doing nothing. So I decided that Osman Digna should be holding the reins of his horse. I drilled a hole into the hand stump and likewise drilled a hole through the snout of the horse. Then I cut a length of florists wire and threaded it through the hole in the horse's snout. I centered the reins wire so that both ends converged at the figure's hands and threaded this wire through the hands.

The end result was a very dynamic pose for Osman Digna, heroically waving his sword with his right hand and pulling up on the horse's reins with his left hand. 

The figures were then primed with Vallejo spray primer, painted with acrylic paint, and then sealed with a couple of coats of gloss coat sealer. I think that 54mm figures look better with a gloss coat. I did a little extra painted detail work on the saddle cloth to make the figure look more important than one of the rank and file warriors.

I also did a special paint job on another Armies In Plastic cavalryman so that I could have a leader of my Ansar contingent of the Mahdi's army. I haven't given him a name yet, but I'm sure that somewhere is the name of all of The Mahdi's subordinate army leaders. The Mahdi himself did not take a part in the fighting because he was the leader, prophet and The Expected One.

So this week I finished painting ten more Beja, 5 more Egyptian artillery crew, one British artillery crew, the two mounted Mahdist leaders and one extra rank and file cavalry warrior. I have another ten Beja on the painting table and this afternoon I primed 32 Egyptian army regulars. The latter will be painted as one of the Sudanese regiments in Egyptian service.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Egyptian Artillery Conversions Painted


Yesterday I finished painting the second of two Egyptian artillery crews for the Sudan Project. I have one Krupp gun and one Gatling Gun and crew. The Krupp crew includes the converted figure holding a trail spike, putting to good use a pose that I would not otherwise have used.

The other crew were simple and easy head swaps of Egyptian heads onto British artillery crew torsos. I think that the results look pretty good.


Sunday, August 7, 2022

Petco Visit Terrain Finds!


Cork Bark in the foreground looks like rock.
The two greenish mountains were made for turtle environments.


One of my favorite places to visit for wargaming terrain is the Petco national chain store of pet supplies. The aquarium aisle is loaded with all sorts chotchkes and niknaks to decorate fish tanks and reptile terrariums. For example, resin treasure chests, sunken Spanish galleons and rock caves could all potentially find a use on the wargamer’s table. In the past I’ve found a Greek temple ruin, an Egyptian Sphinx and Burmese statue heads. Other items such as plastic plants can be turned into desert or jungle vegetation. Kitty litter is a good material for making stone walls. The list goes on and on.

Resin Buddha Heads from Petco

This Greek Temple Ruin has appeared in many of my Ancients and Sudan wargames.
The trees were made from 
artificial plants bought at Michael's Stores.

So yesterday I was looking for some cork bark to use in the making of some mountains for my Sudan Project. Lowe's and Home Depot let me down with regard to finding any large chunk pine bark, but there was a Petco store across the street from HD so I thought that I might as well stop in and see what I could find. While I could not find any bark (used to line terrarium floors), I did score a couple of great finds in the Turtle Area Aisle of the store.

The first item was a turtle platform that looks like a large mesa-like rock structure. I plan on repainting it in more desert like colors for the Sudan. The second piece, a jagged rock formation spire, is also perfect for what I am looking for in off the shelf Sudan terrain. Again, a coat of red-brown paint and some dry brushing of highlights will turn the spire into a nice desert terrain piece.

Here are several pictures of the Petco terrain "in situ" on my game table. The game mats are from Cigar Box Battle Mats.

An old Airfix desert building fits nicely with the turtle terrain and cork bark.

More Egyptian Artillery Crew Conversions

The number of artillery crew poses in the Armies In Plastic figure range is rather limited, so I started examining some of the Egyptian infantry figures to see if any of them would be suitable for conversion work. I found a pose where the figure is running or lunging - a pose that I consider useless for close order troop formations - and decided that I could repurpose the figure into an artillery crew man by removing his rifle and replacing it with either a ram rod or a trail spike. I already had ram rod poses, so I used the charging figure for this conversion. It was a simple matter to cut away his rifle and then drill holes through the hands so that it could hold a length of wire (an off cut from a North Star spear that I saved for a rainy day). I mixed up a bit of green stuff epoxy putty and fashioned the end of a trail spike to put on the wire. The raised foot was a problem, so I placed a ball of putty underneath the raised foot and then fashioned the putty into a tree stump. I am waiting a couple of days for the green stuff to dry, after which i will spray prime the figure, paint him, and spritz him with a gloss coat finish.

The Before (right) and the conversion After (left) of Trail Spike Man.
The other two artillerists are just simple head swaps.

My plan is to have enough Egyptian artillery crewmen to man one Gatling Gun and one Krupp artillery piece. I might add another crew to give me three pieces of Egyptian artillery for my Sudan army project.

I hope to finish off another ten Beja warriors today and then wait for the arrival of Beja reinforcements in tomorrow's mail. My original plastic Beja contingent was 100 warriors and my plan is to increase that to 200 figures. Thus each Dervish player will command 100 figures divided into two 50 figure units.

I have three Egyptian infantry companies of 16 figures each and my plan is to increase the regiment to four companies, or 64 figures in total. Then I will paint a second Egyptian regiment of Sudanese troops. This will give me enough Egyptian infantry to form a giant square with 32 figures on each side of the square and then two Gatling Guns on two corners of the square. Three squadrons (already painted) of Egyptian Lancers (3sqs by 12 figures per squadron) provide support for the infantry. This will be my finished Egyptian Army for my Sudan Project.