Tuesday, October 24, 2023

More... stuff

I managed to get in another playtest session of Harpers Ferry this Sunday but was too busy to take any photos. Thanks are due to Mark K, Rob C, and Jamie for volunteering as guinea pigs.

This time we tried to get in a bit of Act Two - the Storming of the Engine House - but I'm beginning to think I may have to restrict the Steel Lard games to Act One - a three hour slot may just be too tight to get both in.

One thing we did decide would be a useful addition to the game is some way of recording whether a given figure is using his long arm (musket or Sharps Rifle) or his pistol. I'm going to produce some small laminated cards with a rifle on one side and a six-shooter on the other. These can be flipped over when the character swaps weapons. I'll do a few pistol-and-sword ones too for the militia and marine officers.

I decided that I wanted a figure or two to represent more hostages and maybe freed slaves working with the abolitionists. I put in an order to Redoubt and got a couple of packs that looked useful for townsfolk. 

These street urchins can be scattered around the edge of the board as potential innocent victims of missed shots, while the townsfolk include a number of potentially useful types:

I've started on my version of the slave figure, painted and gloss varnished so far:

Meanwhile I've been doing quite a bit of work on stuff for the eventual Prague Summer 1948 game.

A couple of 3D printed buildings here, both of them duplicates of ones I've previously used, and a well by Leven Miniatures. The piece with the well is sized to bring the building piece up to the same depth (9cm) as several of my urban bases. It can go in front of the left-hand house or behind it or be used somewhere else entirely.

Finally, I carved about a very old FW190 model to make an approximation to a Soviet La-5FN fighter.


Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Harpers Ferry tested

On Saturday I hosted Gus, Ron and Mark to play a first game of the Harpers Ferry scenario. I'd spent the previous two weeks getting the terrain to a finished-enough state.

We played out Act One of the game, representing the attack by the Martinsburg militia from the northwestern end of the rifle works. This was historically rather poorly co-ordinated with advances by the citizens of Harpers Ferry from the southeast. Gus commanded the militia in the role of Captain Alburtis while Mark played three of the locals.

Ron looked after the insurgents. On this occasion he had John Brown, Edwin Coppock, Emperor Shields Green, Aaron Stephens, and Dangerfield Newby (all lovely castings from Old Glory). His aims were to keep Brown alive and to move some hostages from the paymasters office to the engine house.

Shields Green moving hostages

Ron managed to successfully move the hostages but lost Coppock and Newby in the process.

I was generally pleased with the performance of my scenario-specific house rules. These were "Loopholes" and "Other characters".

We needed to capture the fortress-like character of the engine house with its brick walls and lack of ground-level windows. I declared that the insurrectionists would begin the game with 1D3+3 (revised to 1D3+2 in future games) loopholes in the walls or doors. These would be placed whenever an insurrectionist wished to fire from within the engine house. I made little markers to represent their locations and the 60 degree arc of fire through the loophole (in either direction). Shooting into the engine house through the loopholes required an extra Spot dice.

Two loophole markers

There were many more people involved in the events than we could realistically represent in a What A Cowboy game (20 insurgents and about 3000 townsfolk). To represent their influence I included "Other Insurrectionists" and "Other Citizens" cards in the game deck. When these came up the relevant side could:
  • Snipe - lay down an area that required an extra Move dice to cross and an extra Spot dice to see through,
  • Counter-snipe - remove the enemy's sniping marker by keeping their heads down,
  • Attempt a task - battering down a door perhaps, and for the insurrectionists...
  • Advance the Uprising Count.
Aaron Stephens finds his way blocked by 
sniper fire, perhaps from the Wager House

The Uprising Count is a measure of the extent to which slaves in the counties around Harpers Ferry are taking up arms in rebellion. I'll not reveal the effects of this until the game has had its first outings at Steel Lard in Sheffield and Posh Lard in Peterborough.

The What A Cowboy rules were well-received. I can see us using them again in other settings. As a lover of obscure history, I'm half-considering the 1839 Chartist Riots in Newport, South Wales.

Finally the terrain. I had got it to the basic minimum standard I was happy presenting to my Saturday Afternoon gaming group. 

Fontaine Beckham near the main gate of 
the rifle works

Since then I've started making improvements. I'm picking out individual paving stones in slightly differing colours and I'll be adding a flagpole and a couple of additional trees.

The retaining wall above the Potomac has been given a dark wash and will get some more weathering while the bridge over the boat ramp will get some rust marks and a coat of varnish.

The next playtest session will hopefully get on to Act Two - the US Marines' assault on the engine house. I've also designed a post-game phase to explore the effects of the insurrection on public opinion North and South. 

More later!

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Another Harpers Ferry Update

Another (brief) update on Harpers Ferry progress.  I've finished basing the buildings and started the process of adding texture to the baseboard.

The white strips of PVC board on the railroad tracks are going to form the main structural components of the bridge over the boat ramp.

When I'm not adding layers of tile grout to the base, I'm using off-cuts of timber to make piles of boxes to go in the warehouse or underneath the railroad trestle.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Harpers Ferry Update

Last time we visited Harpers Ferry I'd built the railroad trestle (but not yet laid the track), made a start on building the engine house (aka John Brown's Fort), and glued down the perimeter walls.

The tracks are now in place. Not the most exciting picture but here you go.

The engine house has been a significant undertaking. I knew that I wanted to build it out of foamcore and card but integrating a 3D printed cupola I found on Thingiverse and the windows I designed myself. The plan was to clad the whole building in printed brick paper.

Unfortunately when I came to assemble the building I found that I'd cocked up the process of scaling the model from the available plans. The windows in the end walls were far too high compared to those in the front and rear walls.

The windows should be at the same height all round

I glued the walls together and then sat back for a week or so, trying to decide if I could live with the error. In the end I decided I couldn't so I took the model apart and rebuilt the end walls.

This is what I ended up with after building the roof and applying laser-cut slates from Charlie Foxtrot Models.

I want to make the interior of all the buildings (except the water tower) playable so I've made the roof removable and added a floor from brick paper over cornflake-box thin card.

The shelf unit on the rear wall is simply supports from a 3D print job!

Since taking the pictures I've rebased the fire engines using the same brick paper.

Finally, I had second thoughts on the main gate to the armoury compound. The 3D printed main gates would be far to delicate to transport glue in place on the main board. I decided to construct a gateway module that could be transported in its own box and slotted into place for play.

The gates are now glued in place to a piece of artist's mounting board. This slots into a space defined by glued-down spacers from the same material. I'm hopeful that when I come to texture the board, I can make the join almost invisible. A little scattering of sand will probably help.

I've added Italeri plastic bollards beside the gates and spent about three hours cutting and laying cardboard paving slabs to create the footpath past the engine house and the paymaster's office.

So after all that, the current state of play is like this.

Next steps are the base the warehouse, add thin card "frames" for the buildings to sit within and then to start texturing the baseboard.