Saturday, 26 December 2015

ANP Pickup

I picked up a die cast pickup truck for the ANP.  I like the way the paint job turned out, but I keep seeing things that are wrong with it, like that it is a Chevy Silverado and it should be a Ford Ranger and that it should have a roll bar and grill guard.

Of course is it (probably) 1:43 so somewhat out of scale with the figures, but on the tabletop it doesn't look too bad.  Really stands out in the photo, though!

If I can find a suitable DShK, I'll mount it on the truck sometime - certainly saw a few of those driving around (although at the time I didn't know enough to call them DShK or dushka, just "WTF is that cannon doing on that pickup!?").

Standing next to the truck is the latest figure, could be Taliban, might just be an armed civilian.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Afghanistan people and terrain

The past few months I've been reading up on Afghanistan and (more importantly) building terrain and painting miniatures for Kandahar.

First up, a rock!  Walking on the beach with the family, my wife found this lovely piece of driftwood. A coat of gesso, a lick of paint and voilà, terrain for the game.

I've also built a couple of compounds.  The first is based on the design from Matakishi's Tea House (  I didn't follow the directions exactly, as I used foamcore rather than cork tiles, and pretty much everything is held together with the handyman's secret weapon (duct tape).  The base is a 12" x 12" plywood square from Michael's.  Then I slathered on a layer of gesso. I smeared white glue over most of the surfaces and coated the walls and ground with sand and model railway ballast to give some texture.  The structure is pretty basic but I like how it turned out.

For compound #2 I started with the Renedra Mud Brick house.  By itself, it's a nice little structure, but it needs to be part of a compound.  For me, if I'm going to the trouble of building all the compound walls, it's just about as easy to carry on and build the interior buildings as well.  So rather than do that, I tried to make this as easy as possible by grabbing a few bits from the Warlord Games ruined hamlet.  The hamlet ruins aren't quite right for Afghanistan, but I didn't let that stop me.  I used a bit of masking and mostly decided to depend on the paint job.  The idea here is a ruined complex, with bits of walls and a single building still standing.  At some point I'll build at least one more compound.  I hope!

I purchased the Afghan civilians set from Eureka Miniatures USA.  Here they are in their fully painted glory (including the ones featured in an earlier blog post!).  The Eureka figures are lovely but I needed to add some putty to convert the pakul-style caps on two of the figures into turbans, as these are meant to be Pashtuns, not Tajiks.    The turbans ended up pretty bulky but good enough for me.

The men:

I should have given at least one of the older gents a bright orange beard, as many Afghan greybeards will use copious amounts of henna!  Maybe if I get another set...

The women:

And I also decided to repurpose a set of Warlord Games Celtic civilians.  I added a bit of greenstuff to make the skirts longer and to give the girl a shawl.  I tried to convert the tunic on one of the boys into a shalwar kameez, but it looked a bit rubbish so I left the other one alone and depended on the paint job.  I gave him a bit of a Kandahar-syle pillbox hat, though!

And finally, la pièce de résistance, my jingle truck!  Admittedly, it doesn't look much like any jingle truck on the road in south Asia, but I hope it adds a bit of local colour to the table.  I started with a Warlord Games Bedford OY and again depended mostly on a garish paint job to do the trick.  I also chopped up a small chain necklace, then built up a front bumper from tin foil and putty.  There aren't many WWII-era trucks still on the road in South Asia, at least not that I noticed, but I couldn't find more appropriate, modern era trucks that were readily available.  I'm sure they're out there, but this does the trick for me.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Need a scenario for TSATF by Friday evening! Please help!

I've volunteered to put on a game of The Sword and the Flame on Friday evening for people that I've never met.  Maybe no one will want to play, but I'm expecting that I'll have 2-4 takers.

Here's the resources to put on the table:
4'x6' Hotz desert terrain mat
12"x12" kishlak (Afghan walled compound, copied from Matakishi's Teahouse )
Some palm trees (NB:  I never saw any palm trees when I was in Afghanistan...)
Some sheep (6-8)
Various Afghan non-combatants (a dozen or so)
68 Pathan warriors with a mix of firearms and cutlery
11 mounted Afghan warriors
Mullah on horse
20 Gurkhas
20 Guides infantry
20 Sikhs
23 British line infantry
22 Gordon Highlanders
Cannon and 4 RA gunners
53 Russian infantry
Cannon and 4 Russian gunners
3 British RE sergeants separated from their unit, accompanied by a bugle-playing bhisti
3 pack mules with full panniers
Queen Victorier (Gawd bless 'er!)
Officer of the 11th Hussars
I'm sure I could find a gentleman or two in civilian clothing

Please take a look at the ingredients above, and let me know how you think I should prepare them.

Thanks in advance!


Sunday, 4 October 2015

Modern Afghans and other stuff

Finally a new post!

I made an impulse purchase about a month ago - new(ish) modern Afghans from Eureka Miniatures.  I picked up the ANP (Afghan National Police) and civilians.  More on them later, but first I also managed to put some paint on other figures that had been hanging around on my table for a while.

First up are a few Russians and a Belgian from Pulp Figures.  These are figures I bought from Bob Murch's stand at Trumpeter Salute back in April.  The Russians will join my varied collection of interwar adventurers and ne'er-do-wells, as will the investigator, although he may be a bit gentile for the group he's found himself with.

Here is a Russian ammunition wagon for the army of Tsar Alexander I.  I haven't touched any Napoleonics for months, having been distracted by other projects, but I still have plenty left in the lead and plastic pile! Perry Miniatures, of course.

I managed to fit in a few more Pathans for the 2nd Anglo-Afghan War.  Mostly Old Glory, except for the bloke sitting down who is (if I recall correctly) from Chaos in Cairo, which is also OG.

Speaking of impulse purchases, I picked up a box of Wargames Factory plastic skeleton warriors.  Lots of fun bits there, but annoyingly fiddly to work with.  Mostly I plan to build them as warriors with sword or spear and shield, but thought it would be fun to start with some 'fresh' recruits.  Might be able to use these as spawning locations if I ever get around to fantasy gaming again!  There are another 28 skellies yet to build and paint.

Now here are the ANP.  There are a dozen in the pack, two each of the blokes in this photo.  Second photo shows the whole mob.  I saw more ANP than any other uniformed folks when I was in Kandahar.  These guys were ubiquitous, the ones that are stuck with little checkpoints of 2-3 guys all over town, or scooting around in their dark green Ford Ranger technicals.  They're also the ones who get to pay the butcher's bill when bad things happen (according to Wikipedia, there have been roughly 14,000 ANP killed since 2002, compared to 3,400 for coalition forces).  And since they don't wear camo, they paint up quickly!  Almost every wargaming report for modern Afghanistan that I see features soldiers from a Western country, either OEF or ISAF, battling against Taliban (with the rare Soviets vs mujihadeen engagement).  I decided that if I'm going to wade into ultramodern gaming, I'll start with the local forces.  

The civilians set includes a few women, including this charming lady.  Burqa is definitely the garment of choice for women out on the town but certainly not the only option.

Finally, this is the model that inspired me to make the Eureka purchase in the first place.  This model reminded me of a contractor I worked with at the hospital.  Engineer Ezzat was always impeccably dressed in a white salwar kameez.  He was an excellent contractor, organized and competent.  He wrote the best tenders, and got the job done to the required standard.  I ended up awarding his company three contracts in a row and was worried that I'd be accused of favouritism!  He won the jobs fairly, though, and impressed with successful completion so I wasn't too concerned.

Engineer Ezzat had a few things to teach me about the correct way of building business relations.  I was often on site, inspecting works and keeping up with progress (pretty much daily).  As I mentioned, I wanted to avoid appearances of favouring anyone, so I kept things as professional as I could.  Engineer Ezzat would have none of that!  After I evaded offers of tea and cakes, he took to carefully organizing little ambushes:  "Mr William, I need you to look at this..." as he led me into a room, where tea and cakes would be laid out for a little break.  He trained me pretty quickly, as it turned out.  I had many great chats with him (and sometimes his brother, who co-owned the construction company), over a cup of tea, a slice of melon, or a piece of cake.  He taught me the importance of stopping once in a while to appreciate the moment.  And once properly trained, I made a point of sharing tea with as many different Afghan people as I could, including labourers, the hospital admin and support staff, contractors and others.  I enjoyed it and found that my experience in Kandahar was that much more enhanced.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

learning to be sinister WARNING!! Graphic content!

I think the warning is overstated, but you can never tell what will upset people.  It's my hand, and the photos don't upset me, so there!

It's been a challenging few weeks for me.  On Tuesday, 26 May, I had a bit of an accident while giving Erik his bath.  I had the water running, at a nice lukewarm temperature, when Erik decided to pull on the faucet handle to turn the water up to scorching hot.  Acting before thinking, I leaned over to turn the water off before Erik did himself any harm.  However, I ended up resting my weight on the soap dish, which collapsed under my weight.  

The soapdish turned out to be ceramic, so when it broke, it basically turned into a very sharp blade,  sliced through my fingers and only stopped when it hit bone.  It cut a tendon on my pinkie and nerves on both pinkie and ring finger.

I immediately shouted "bugger!" loud enough to get Ellis' attention (and she confirms that was the word which used and not anything stronger) then I wrapped my hand in a towel and applied pressure. There was minimal blood splatter, just a few drops, not enough to upset the boys.  I got Ellis to pull Erik from the bath and then call me a cab. I left Ellis in charge and went to Lion's Gate Emergency.

Turns out that if you show up to emergency bleeding, they send you straight in!  Either that or it was a slow evening for them.  Of course, once I got through the doors, I had to wait while the nurses got through a shift change.  The doctor on duty saw me in the hallway then I was moved to a room for treatment, which turned out to be having my hand cleaned and frozen, followed by an uncomfortable number of stitches on two fingers.

And they sent me home.  I had cut my fingers at 7:15, and was home around 10:00.  The morning after, I called the surgeon's office, and my appointment was set for the following Monday morning.

I made it through the following week glorying in my stitches and with my floppy pinkie and two numb fingers.  The first three fingers were still functional, however, so I was still able to function with my right hand, including writing and driving.  And then on Monday, the surgeon examined me and let me know about the damage:  of two tendons in the pinkie, one had been severed so that I cannot bend the lower joint of the finger, and of two nerves in each finger, one had been cut in each of the ring finger and the pinkie.  These could all be reattached with surgery, and he booked me in for surgery with Dr Saunders the next day.  I think I surprised him when I asked what would happen if I skipped the operation but he convinced me that a couple months of recovery time would be worth it in order to regain full use of my fingers.

So on Tuesday afternoon I reported to Lion's Gate Hospital for day surgery.  Ellis and the boys came to the hospital with me and saw me safely checked in.  (Arthur had a tumble out of the stroller just as we arrived at the hospital and got a nasty bump on his noggin - which made for a bit of a distraction!)  We booked our babysitter for the afternoon, but she was only available until 6:00, so had arranged with family friend Annemarie to pick me up after the operation if it went later than that.  

This was my first time under a general anaesthetic.  The operation was delayed in starting, and then took a while to complete.  I regained consciousness around 9:00 (I think).  I was pretty woozy and took a while to regain my senses.  In the end I think they just kicked me out so that they wouldn't have to transfer me to an in-patient ward!  But I was definitely happy to sleep in my own bed.
This is how my hand looked after the operation.

A week later, I had my first session with the physiotherapist.  For now, no movement with the hand, and that's the way it will stay until early July.  They want to give the tendon and nerves time to regenerate a bit before working them.  That means the hand is out of commission as any gripping with the index or middle fingers will affect the other two.

Here's my first view of my hand after it was unwrapped:

And here's the contraption I get to wear for the next several weeks;

Arthur is very interested in it, so I need to keep him from grabbing it.

I am now learning to do almost everything with my left hand.  This has slowed my productivity down considerably.  I can type, slowly and with more than the usual number of errors.  Handwriting is atrocious but unavoidable in some cases (like signing medical consent forms!).  Doc says I can drive but Ellis and mum are vetoing that for the present, so I'm rediscovering public transit.  This means more time for reading, and I'm almost finished 'And Quiet Flows the Don'!  Recommendations for my reading list accepted in the comments below.

All for now, best wishes for all.


Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Trees! (or now for something a bit different)

I took a break from painting miniatures this past week to make some terrain - not for wargaming, but for my sons' wooden railway.  We recently picked up two sets of the wooden railway from IKEA, and it's been a great hit with both kids.  I like particularly most wooden railways are mutually compatible, including IKEA, Thomas the Tank Engine, BRIO and Melissa and Doug.  This means that I can load up on track from IKEA or M&D, and save up for specialized items like bridges or buildings from BRIO or Thomas.  

However, it is very difficult to find terrain other than buildings for any wooden railway.  I searched through many different catalogues, and could only find a handful of trees available, and only as part of a much larger set (I think one set was over $100, and included two trees along with a full set of tracks, trains, bridges and whatnot).  So I eventually figured out that if I wanted trees, I'd have to build them myself.

So I stopped by Michaels and picked up some cones (wooden doll bodies) and balls (dolls heads) plus a length of dowel and some wooden wheels.

I then got to work cutting the dowel to the necessary length, and glued it in place.  The dowel I selected was a perfect fit for the cones and balls, but the holes in the wheels were just a little too big, so I needed to pack them with a bit of modelling putty to get a good fit.

Once the glue dried and the putty set, I slapped on some paint (gloss green for the upper part and a flat brown for the trunk and base).

And here are the trees along with the IKEA train and tracks.  

Nice and quick little terrain project.  Parts cost me around $25, and I still have lots of paint left over (and I could probably find a cheaper source for parts than Michaels, to boot).

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Gunga Din and the Sergeants Three

Carrying on with my Pulp Figures booty from Trumpeter Salute, here are Gunga Din and the Sergeants Three.  I choose this set (rather than the 1930s one) as I can drop the three sergeants into my British army for the Second Anglo-Afghan War.  The Bob Murch figures are joined by a British Officer of the Great War era from Copplestone Castings.

Photos aren't great, and the painting is mediocre.  I guess they look ok at arm's length!  

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Mad guru and friends

Continuing with the latest batch of Pulp Figures I mentioned in my last post, here is the Mad Guru plus some of his nearest and dearest friends.  They've been joined by an Old Glory Pathan Warrior, one of 30-odd that have been sitting in the lead pile for the past several years.