Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Advancing Towards Abu Kru


The Camel Corps mounts on and continues is advance to the Nile River at Metemmeh.

The Desert Column has departed from the water wells of Abu Klea and is moving towards the village of Metemmah on the Nile River. Whilst the Dervishes were soundly defeated the other day, there is no doubt that there will be more to encounter as the column marches towards the Nile. You can read the battle report for my Abu Klea game Here

General Herbert Stewart, the commander of the Desert Column, leaves about a third of his force back at the water wells, where they guard the baggage, the wounded and the artillery. Stewart decided that given the pour performance of the Gatling Guns at Abu Klea, that they will only hinder the speed of the column and not provide any substantial help in a battle. Accordingly, he leaves the artillery with the rear guard. The rear guard are posted on a low rise where their artillery can provide support for Stewart's advancing forces.

Casualties from the Battle of Abu Klea are carried on camel born stretchers.
We leave no man behind.

The Yorks & Lancs have to travel on foot.

Hopefully, Gordon's steam ships will be waiting for the Desert Column when they reach the Nile River.

General Stewart leaves around a third of his force, along with the baggage, wounded and artillery,  back at the water wells. 
They will fortify their position by building a zariba around the perimeter.

Accordingly, General Stewart has sent his two squadrons of Egyptian Lancers out ahead of the column to stir up any Dervish warriors that might be hiding in the Acacia Trees. Their long lancers are the perfect weapon to use against the wily Dervish who like to hide in the scrub bushes and then jump up and ambush the unsuspecting rider.

Old Britain's hollow cast Egyptian Lancers have been repainted and based on MDF movement bases.
Each squadron (12 riders) has its own squadron flag (red, green and blue).

What's in that wadi?

Why Dervish riflemen, of course...

...see how they run!

You would run too if you saw those pig stickers riding your way.

Some of the unfortunate ones, alas, do not make it to safety.

The lancers have flushed the Dervish out of the Acacia trees and scrub, clearing the way for the Desert Column to advance.

The Egyptian Lancers flush the Dervish riflemen out of the Acacia trees.

However, a blocking force of Dervish are spotted on the horizon giving indication that they plan to contest Stewart's advance to the Nile River. The Battle of Abu Kru is about to happen.

 As I write this I don't know, either, how the battle will turn out. Will the Desert Column make it the relative safety of the Nile River or will they be annihilated by the Dervish? Will General Stewart survive the battle?Stay tuned with this blog to read the outcome of the battle.


Saturday, September 24, 2022

Flea Market Finds: He Scores!!!


Nile River paddle boat that I picked up at the Chicago Toy Soldier Show.
Figures are Trophy of Wales from my own collection.


Yesterday I visited the Chicago Toy Soldier Show in Schaumburg, Illinois. The annual event attracts dealers  from all over the country and they have every possible old and new toy soldiers that one could imagine. So if you are looking to fill out the ranks of your old Britain's Grenadier Guards or want to experience the joy of finding an old toy that you used to have when you were a young lad, then this is the place for you.

I went to the show looking primarily for 1/32 (54mm) cattle and civilians that could be used to populate my Khartoum town of the 1880s. I was successful on both accounts. I only wish that I had bought more cattle - I saw them, but it was towards the end of the day and I was exhausted from tracing my way through a maze of endless dealer rooms on two floors of the hotel. My dogs were killing me!

The "actual show" will be held tomorrow, on Sunday, but a lot of the transaction action happens in what they call "room trading".  The dealers set up their wares in their hotel rooms beginning the thursday before the show and this continues through saturday. Then on Sunday, they set everything up in a large convention hall for the public part of the show. I usually miss the sunday event due to its conflict with NFL football games. The room trading is located on the fourth and fifth floors and one is free to wander around the hallways and poke one's head into the various trader rooms.

My first stop at the show was at the Hobby Bunker dealer booth. HB is so large that they usually set up shop on the first floor, rather than resort to room trading. I stopped here before taking the elevator to the fourth floor. They usually have a good selection of King & Country, Trophy of Wales, Wm. Britains, John Jenkins Designs and many plastic tubs full of old Marx plastic figures.

I saw the King & Country set of archeologists for their "Discovering Tutankhamen" series of figures and I just couldn't pass these up. The set comes with four figures: the professor, the archeologist and his wife, and an an Egyptian guide. The Mummy is an extra set and I just had to have that too. There is also a sarcophagus with a mummy laying at rest inside of that. I forgot to purchase the sarcophagus but will get that later.

King & Country's "Tutankhamen" set of figures.
Mummy Dearest?

The characters are dressed in a style that is suitable for late 19th Century through the 1930s and so they should fit right in with my Khartoum! game at Historicon 2023. This has got me thinking about how I can make an underground tomb vignette for the table top. This should be a fun idea to model, so stay tuned as I tackle this project down the road. Now all I need is an Indiana Jones type of 1/32 figure.

After making my purchases at Hobby Bunker, I noticed a Nile River paddle boat tucked away on the top shelf in the HB display area. I was interested in buying it, but I thought "no, it couldn't possibly be for sale" or "I'm sure that it is too expensive for my budget", or "I will come back later for it." As you all know, when you see something in a flea market type of setting, and you like it, you had better buy it right then on the spot or else it will be gone when you walk away and change your mind ten minutes later. Fortunately the boat was still there when I returned about three hours later.

I took the elevator to the fourth floor of the hotel and immediately pitched into the task of poking my head into every trader room possible. I think that I spent nearly two hours just on the fourth floor alone! I had a clearly defined spending budget in mind and a clear focus on finding some cattle for a Sudan cattle drive / food foraging scenario that I plan to run at Historicon 2023. I found a number of metal Britains cattle and some Marx Longhorns early on in the game so combined with the archeological team, I had pretty much hit my goals of the figures that I was looking for.

So as I was getting to wrap things up and head home, I made one last stop at the Hobby Bunker and made an inquiry about the Nile River paddle boat. It was indeed for sale (and it was still there and not on reserve) and the price was right in my budget so I bought it.

It is a fine looking boat and looks absolutely awesome on my table top. The boat is about 24-inches in length. The only downside is that when I opened up the box at home, I discovered that the model was in need of quite a few repairs. Some of the side rails have come off (but the parts were included with the model), the smoke stack is missing, and a few other items need to be reattached or reglued on the model, but none of these are beyond my average and limited modeling skills. It is much easier to make terrain than it is to make things like houses and boats.

Nevertheless, I am quite happy with my find and I look forward to making the repairs and getting the vessel into tip top and Bristol shape. Here are a few pictures of the model. I have placed some of my own Trophy of Wales Camel Corps and Sudanese regiment figures on the model to provide some perspective on the size versus the height of the figures.

That paddle wheel looks very complicated to make. Whoever made it did an excellent job.

The side rails are made from nails sticking into a grommet and then connected with white twine rope.
The wood side piece needs to be reattached to the pillars, as it should be on the outside rather than the inside of the pillars.

The boat model provides me with a good template for making my own version of the boat in the future. Now that I see how it is done, I think that I can reverse engineer things and figure out how things were made. I plan on making a smaller dugout boat that will be pulled behind the boat. The dugout will be filled with firewood for the ship's boiler.

I will have to add some handrails to the front of the boat and make
some mealie bags for  the protection of the Gatling Gun crew.

All in all, it was a great day of shopping in a flea market setting and I am looking forward to the day when this boat, let's called the Bordein, and a sister ship that I might build, let's call that one the Safir, patrol the waters of the Nile at Historicon 2023.


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

An Oasis In The Desert - Building Terrain


When an army is fighting in an arid climate, such as a desert, the most important thing that it needs is access to water, for obvious reasons. Accordingly, I thought that it would be a good idea to make some watering holes for my 54mm Sudan Project.

The initial idea for a "Blue Lagoon" oasis came from the need to build some kind of a base for the jagged mountain terrain piece that I bought at the local pet supplies store. I didn't want to glue the mountain permanently to a board so that it would be easier to store and transport a relatively flat piece of terrain. I reasoned that I could build a terrain piece and then leave a space on the terrain where the little jagged mountain could be placed. I could also use the model without the mountain, placing palm trees in the empty space if need be.

The two pictures below show off the oasis model with and without the mountain piece.

My Blue Lagoon shown without the mountain section. Note the flat area on the right hand side of the model.
This is where the mountain piece would be placed.
(and no, that is not Brooke Shields at the water hole)

The Blue Lagoon shown with the mountain piece placed on the base.

Another view of the Blue Lagoon without the mountain piece.

My previous attempt at building a desert water hole.

My first attempt at building a desert watering hole is shown in the picture above. It is constructed from a piece of plastic that I've cut in an irregular pattern rather than leaving it as a rectangle. Rectangular terrain pieces often do not look very realistic, but when you round the corners, it makes a big visual difference. This water hole can be placed atop of my terrain mat. I then add some large rocks, green lichen and a couple of palm trees (made from pieces of artificial plastic flowers that I bought at Michael's Stores). It looks nice, but I wanted something more.

My next idea was to have a water hole in a "lagoon style" of setting. The model would be surrounded by rock so as to have the water "tucked away" into a hidden place within the rock walls. Then I decided that this could also serve as a base for my fish tank mountain piece. Someone pointed out to me that the color of water takes on the appearance of the color of the sky, for the most part. Thus the cloudless blue sky of the desert would likely reflect a blue color to the water hole.

How to build the model

I used a cork place mat (purchased at Target Stores) as my base and glued chunks of 2-inch thick pink foam insulation board for the rocks. The foam was glued to the cork using white Elmer's Glue and allowed to dry overnight. The next step was to use my hot wire knife to shape the pieces, cutting off the corners and the edges of the top pieces. The final step was to attach pieces of bark to the foam, using a grab adhesive made by Loctite. I also use this stage to fill in some of the cracks and openings in the bark areas so that the underlying foam pieces do not show through the rock. Again, allow the bark to cure overnight before going to the next step.

Next, I take some Red Devil Premixed Wallboard Paste (also called Spackle Compound) and mix the color of paint that I want to use for the ground color. By mixing the paint into the paste before applying to the model, rather than painting the model after applying the past, you mitigate the possibility that a chunk of spackle might chip off from use and reveal an area of white. If you mix the paint into the spackle, a chipped off piece of the paste will reveal the color of the paint, rather than white. This also saves time used to paint the white spackle with paint.

While the spackle is still wet, sprinkle some bits of fine railroad ballast (Woodland Scenics) onto the spackle to get more definition to the flat areas of the surface.

Next step: select a highlight color and dry brush the color over the rocks and the ground cover. After the dry brushing is completed, then glue down some bits of course green flock in areas where there is likely to be some grass or other vegetation. Just a little bit of green really makes the appearance of the model POP!

Water effects

I like to finish off the model by adding some Mod Podge to the water surface of the lagoon/oasis. Mod Podge gives a shiny effect to the water. Pour it on thick and spread it around with a brush. Prior to the Mod Podge, paint the center of your lagoon a dark blue and the edges (the shallower parts of the pond) in a lighter color of blue. This provides the appearance of depth to the water, i.e the deeper parts of the pond will be darker in color than the shallow parts of the water.

Let the Mod Podge dry overnight. It might take two to four days for the stuff to completely dry. You might even want to add another layer of Mod Podge to your water, but one coating is usually enough. You could also have a trickle of water running into your pond. I didn't do this on my model. You can use hot glue to depict the water. I've seen white string dipped into clear epoxy used by railroad models.

So there you have it. I now have a respectable looking water oasis to use in my desert terrain wargames.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Dust In The Wind - The Camels Are Coming!

The Camel Corps is on the move

The Desert Column is on the move again, following its hard won victory over the Dervish at Abu Klea. Now it is moving towards the Nile River where it will hopefully meet up with General Gordon's steamer fleet at Metemmah.

The Camel Corps is on the right, the artillery in the middle of the column, the  Yorks. & Lancs. regiment on the right.
Some Egyptian lancers provide a cavalry screen on the left flank and in front of the column.

Casualties from the previous battle.

Egyptian lancers (old William Britain's hollow cast figures) provide
a cavalry screen for the Desert Column .

Major General Herbert Stewart rides to his destiny at Abu Kru.

The rear of the column at the wells of Abu Klea.

The heliograph team sets up its post atop the highest jebel near the water wells.

This is the terrain that they see ahead of them.
Note the Acacia trees in the distance and the dry wadi in the foreground.

Let's go find us some Dervish!

Be careful what you ask for.

So my next solo battle will be my version of Abu Kru. Half of the York & Lancaster regiment will stay back near the water wells at Abu Klea, along with all of the machine guns, the wounded, and the rest of the baggage train so that the main part of the column can travel faster. There the rear guard will build a zareba and provide artillery cover for the main column.

The objective is to reach the Nile River and then set up a base camp at Gubat.


I am still working on some terrain pieces this week. I made six feet of desert wadi to place on top of the Cigar Box Battle Mats and I might make another oasis piece in the near future. The painting table has another ten Beja warriors and some pack camels.


Don't forget to check out all of the summary updates on Page 2 of this blog: 52 Weeks to Historicon '23

Monday, September 12, 2022

More Terrain Magic


British Heliograph team atop the newest mountain.
Figures are 54mm Little Legion figures.


I think that I am really starting to get the hang of this terrain making thing. I finished a large hill model over the weekend and embellished the fish tank terrain pieces that I had bought at the pet supply store,

Here is a picture of the newest terrain piece (on the right) overlooking an oasis piece that I made last week. I had some palm trees, but moved them out of the way when I snapped the picture.

Same as the previous picture, but from a higher perspective. 

The long view of the table, getting ready to fight the battle of Abu Kru.

The Camels Are Coming, Tra La Tra La.
I think that the stands of Acacia Trees look the part for Sudan.

Some of the camels are deployed as flankers to deter or trip an ambush.

The Heliograph team keeps an eye on the progress of the Desert Column as it marches towards the Nile River.

A close up view of the Heliograph unit. They look quite at home on the top of their new residence.

My work in progress includes several 15-inch long sections of "desert wadi" modules. I am waiting for the wall board paste to dry before applying the final dry brushing technique, so these should be ready to show within several days.