Saturday, April 7, 2012

Garrisoning the Collina Della Formica

You probably thought this project was dead and buried.  Well, it's still alive.
A pair of Tiroler Kaiserjager manning a Schwarzlose MMG on an improvised AA mount, defending the Collina della Formica against prying Italian reconnaissance aircraft.  In a small room behind them, a telephonist reports on enemy activity. 
I've had a very long absence from this project.  For one thing I was heartily sick of things by the time I finished the fort- and cleaned up the mess I made (I had pretty much developed a nervous tik at the mere sight of foamboard).  

Shortly afterwards, our gaming group here in Tokyo found itself getting heavily into Napoleonics.  The Napoleonic period is one of my favourites; but is always a major commitment, taking up a lot of time and effort in painting and modelling.  On top of that I was working on my sizable Soviet 20mm collection as we were also playing lots of WW2 games as well, so what with one thing and another my WW1 project found itself put on the back-burner.

However, and much as I enjoy Napoleonics, sometimes I need a break from colour and fussy uniforms.  As it happened, the Guild wargaming forum was running one of its regular group-builds, with the theme being flak guns.  And among all the Rapier missiles, German Quad 20mm Flakvierling AA guns, and other powerful ground-to-air nastiness being offered, I realized that the only thing I really had to work on for the Flak group build there was this AAMG.   Still, it seemed a good opportunity to get my ass in gear and kick-start the project again.
Models are from Scarab Miniatures. At first I was put off by a definite "goblinesque" sculpting style and huge mitts, but as I was painting them I found they grew on me, and I am quite pleased with the way they turned out. Once I decided on the colour scheme, they painted up quite quickly. 
I decided that these would be reservists called to the colours, and that they would still be in their "pike grey" pre-war uniforms.  From what I've seen and read on the uniforms, Pike Grey is in fact a medium blue colour with a violet cast to the dye, but after faffing around with colour mixes which always turned out too purple-ish.   I decided a simple medium blue worked out the best. 

Here's a short video of a Schwarzlose machine gun in action.  It also provided a handy painting reference.

And here are some shots of the top of the fortification.  

Now I have started on the miniatures for the project, I'm hoping that I may get back to more steady progress on it.  Basically I see myself putting on a small skirmish game with about 20 or 24 figures a side at most, although I'm not sure whether the Mud and the Blood rules will be suitable for a game that small.  I'm yet quite a ways away from having to deal with that issue, though.

Edit: I've decided on what I will be working on over the next while.  A small section of Kaiserjagers- including an MG team and observation stand- along with two transport vehicles (old Matchbox Models of Yesteryears destined for modifying and repainting).  This will make for a nice little column on its way from someplace to somewhere.

Note the Austrian officer.  Freiherr Carolus Anselm Svetigar von Talus auf dem Skree, accompanied everywhere by his faithful hound, Radetsky

These will be done while I continue to work on my Napoleonics, so I expect they will be finished in batches of two or three at a time.    

The vehicles will take longer to work on, but I'm in no hurry on those as first I have to source suitable drivers from somewhere, and which will probably require quite a bit of converting first.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


After a bit of digital legerdemain...

a very quick post as I have an extremely busy weekend with a number of (unfortunately non-gaming related) tasks ahead of me of me, but yes, it's finally done!

I took my time with the final touches in between working on a bunch of different miniatures for a variety of periods. And very nice it is, too, if I don't say so myself.

Once time permits- and the weather cooperates- I'll take it outside for a more detailed photo shoot, hopefully with a few minis to go with it.

I celebrated the occasion by making a new blog header. I've been working with a new graphics program for my Mac, so this was a bit of a learning project for me.

The Collina della Formica looms behind a young "Desert (Mountain?) Fox" in the foreground. The backdrop is from a very atmospheric photo taken during the Battle of Caporetto in 1917. The picture shows a number of clearly exhausted- but victorious- Austrian Stösstruppen guarding some Italian prisoners.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Getting there...

Here it the Collina della Formica after the exterior has been base-coated using an old (expendable!) brush and half a pot of Ceramcoat's mudstone.

And again, after drybrushing and highlighting.

I shall soldier on! The interior will be a royal pain to paint but I'm anxious to get started on it.

I see that Scarab Miniatures has released some Chauchat LMG teams and a Hotchkiss MG or the French, along with some VB rifle grenadiers which is very good news.

I've also been slowly working on the garrison, experimenting with paint shades trying to find the best combination of colours for the Austro-Hungarians. I'm working on these in between working on my War of the Austrian Succession collection, so no pictures yet.


A quick update:

There was a thread on mountain warfare on TMP, and someone linked to this site on how to make easy and practical mountains for wargaming. Owes a lot to theatre scenery it seems, but the idea is simply great and I can now see a way to make a suitable- and usable- backdrop to the Collina della Formica!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Still trying to reach the summit!

In case anyone is wondering where I've been, work- along with the rest of life's constant demands- has been a canine of the feminine gender recently. As has been painting the Collina della Formica.

It is one
big model to paint, especially when the biggest thing I've painted in the last few years has been an artillery piece or two in 28mm. As a result, I ended up underestimating- by a large margin- just how long it would take me to paint this beast.

It has taken a number of tries with a various combination of paints, but I think I finally found a finish that seems to look like the rockscape as seen in various pictures of the Dolomites, and which would look equally at home on the Carso plateau.

Here is a shot from the business-side of the anthill.

This thing devours paint, brushes- and patience- like you wouldn't believe! Imagine painting a sponge with a triple-0 paintbrush...

I ended up spraying the whole thing with two (!) cans of Panzer Grey enamel spray paint from Tamiya as an undercoat. I then use Ceramcoat's mudstone to wet-brush on the main surfaces, leaving the dark grey in the crevasses. I then successively lighten the rock face with a drybrushing of sandstone and maple sugar tan by the same company. This is followed by a wash of tube acrylic raw umber. When dry, I give it a final highlighting of very pale gray (Ceramcoat's soft grey).

Basically another week or two's worth of painting to go, and I still haven't started painting the inside of the trench works yet. But I have to say I'm happy with the way it's turning out.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Almost done...

The modelling part, anyway.

I added the roofs to the MMG bunker and the observation emplacement, both made from foam-card and textured with filler for effect.

After wondering exactly how I was going to model the steel doors, inspiration came in the form of one of the small plastic bases that comes with the Battlefront/ Flames of War minis. I scored a centre line with a razor saw, glued it down to the stone floor, added hinges and supports from wooden off-cuts, and used two small washers as door handles. Now the garrison commander, the Freiherr von Talus auf dem Skree, can access the MMG bunker, and more critically the wine cellars.

I also textured the trench sides and added some supports to the log wall. I've just glued down the main walls using PVA and a wad o' toothpicks to anchor them.

Once the walls have dried thoroughly, I'll fill in any gaps as well as the odd accidental gouging and holes where I pushed the toothpicks through,. The final step is to give the whole thing one more coat of watered-down filler to soften the outlines of the stone.

Then I will set it aside to dry for a few days, clean the horrendous mess that has accumulated on top of my painting desk, and then get painting- both miniatures and Anthill.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Mir sein die Kaiserjager"

Here's one for the Austrians. The song (and march) of the Tiroler Kaiserjager, who did a lot of the fighting in the Dolomites.

Note the photo of the minenwerfer with the finned projectile that appears towards the end of the video. I've the model from Brigade games that I need to put together. Just the thing to plunk in the middle of the Collina della Formica.

With that thing looking over the Allied lines and lobbing hate into their trenches from above, there will be plenty of incentive for the Allies to want to eliminate the stronghold!

Speaking of which, here is a recent shot of the Anthill in progress. As you can see, the flagstones have been added to what was once the floor of the now-ruined building.

Looking down into the defensive works set in the "basement".

Looking from the back ("back" here being the side facing away from the enemy).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mein schlauer Plan...

The Protagonists...

The Collina della Formica nears completion, I have received a bunch of Austrians and French from Scarab Miniatures, and my barbed wire and bases are on their way. It is time to look at what the next stages of my Italian Campaign project will be.

1) Paint up a small garrison of Kaiserjager for the Anthill

2) paint up a platoon of the French 701st with some support weapons

3) detail and paint Kallistra trenches

4) mass produce a wad o' barbed wire emplacements on 75mm square bases, as well as some rocky outcrops and sangars for cover.

These will not necessarly be done in this order, and I'll probably work on things like barbed wire positions between painting phases. But it should see me through to the summer, and in July I'm going to get myself a fold-up ping-pong table for gaming on.

I might even get myself either this one or this one for "flavour"!

I have been mulling over a setting and scenarios for my games, and have started on a cast of characters. The French capt. Raymond de Bouillon-Cantinat, Marquis de Sangfroid, commanding a detachment of the 701st that has been sent to Italy, will be sparring with that young but extremely self-confident scion of the noble Tyrolese house the Count von Talus auf dem Skree.

The Marquis is the latest in a line of Bouillon-Cantinats who have found their way into my French armies down the ages. It is only natural that he make an appearance here!