Birch Forest

John Lambert gets green fingers.

I’d missed out on the bargain miniature Christmas trees from The Works but needed some trees for Zona Alfa. I thought about birch trees, this is how I made them.

Wire Armature
I used wire armatures for the trees and found a tutorial on the Marklin model railway site. I had some thin wire from B & Q Garden section and start by cutting two pieces about 45cm long and folded them in two. I placed the handle of a wooden spoon in the bends and gripping the 4 strands of wire in pliers, rotated the handle to twist the wire. I continued twisting until I wanted to inset a branch. These were made by taking a piece of wire about 20 cm in length which I bent half way. Taking one of the 4 strand of wire, I twist this around one half of the new piece of wire, the second half of the added wire now becomes a strand for the trunk, then continued twisting the trunk until I was ready to insert another branch. I then went back to twist the two wires for the branch until it was long enough, leaving lengths of wire at the end of the branch. The tree canopy will be attached to these. I then continued up the trunk, dropping the number of trunk wires or splitting the trunk into two near the top. The loops at the foot of the trunk are folded out and glued to a base.

The next stage was to get rid of the twisted wire appearance and add some body to the lower section of the trunk. I used Decorator’s acrylic caulk for this, using a wet modelling knife to smooth the caulk and provide texture. I didn’t add caulk to the free ends of the branch. Once the caulk was dry, I painted the trunk pale stone colour, applied a thin pale green wash then dry brushed white. I painted the ends of the branches black. I had a look at our local birch trees, the branches lose thickness abruptly then a mesh of fine branches drop down almost vertically.
I had a pack of black scourers also from B & Q and by gently ripping the scourer, I could get a very thin mesh which I would superglue to the black branch ends

This mesh is pretty robust and ideal to provide the canopy. For foliage, I had some small clump foliage which was just the job. Once the canopy pieces were glued to the branch ends, it was time to add the foliage. I dry brushed the canopy with PVA and sprinkled the canopy with the clump foliage, leaving to dry overnight. The next day, I gently brushed off any loose foliage and the tree was complete, once sprayed with matt sealant.

Tree on left is painted Armature ready for canopy mesh, Tree on right has partial canopy applied. Tree in centre is finished tree.
If you look a photos of Birch forest, the trees are often grouped closely together in stands, I think due to a symbiotic relationship with soil bacteria. I decided to create stands that would conveniently fit into a storage box. These could be grouped together as dense clumps, or spread out to form a birch forest. I used the same technique as the trees above.

Nimzo’s Crew

John Lambert goes into the Zone.

I had a good look around for a suitable crew for Zona Alfa and chose figures from Empress Miniatures. I wanted a good mix and chose one pack from their Chechen range and one from their insurgents range, I also bought a set of heads with gas masks to covert a couple of figures. I was really impressed with the casting quality and they were a joy to paint. I used mainly hobby shop acrylics and of course, the figures needed to be named.

I really liked the RPG figure with tank crew hat – I think my favourite. The next three I painted in Urban winter style camouflage and did a head swap on Kovacs, the piping on the track suit bottoms I added with a fineliner brush.

(l/r Blokin, Zeitsev, Nimzovitch (Nimzo), Sashlik)

The second set I painted a forest digitised camouflage adding extra dots of paint with a cocktail stick.

You need a sniper called Zeitsev – the Stalingrad hero!. Stay tuned to Radio Pripyat for the next instalment.

BPM 97 Scratchbuild

John Lambert shares his latest Zona Alfa projekt.

I’d bought into Zona Alfa intrigued by the period, the campaign system and the terrain building potential. One of the mission objectives in the rulebook scenarios involves a broken down APC. I wasn’t going to splash out £20.00 for a resin cast model so what could I do instead?. Scanning the ASDA shelves for Gaslands stuff I came across this for £3.00.

Could I use the bits from this as a basis for a model ?

I’d remembered that this brand was secured by screws and not rivets so opening it up took a matter of minutes. I was left with a cab, fuel tank, wheels and chassis. I could use the fuel tank, cab and upper chassis as extra terrain pieces later. What about the lower chassis and wheels?

I’d got this plan off the internet and hoped it would work

The wheels were the right diameter but the wheelbase was 1cm too long so I’d have to cut the chassis and join the pieces with 2 x 30 thou plastic card – my go to modelling material for 45 years!. The track was a bit wide 2mm but I could live with that. I’d sketched out templates for the sides and front of the body, cut them out from 20 thou plastic card and quickly had the basis of the bodywork, which warped overnight!.
I decided to build the front wheel arches from strips of 30 thou card to provide better rigidity and to ensure a square structure. Referring to internet photos I found the bonnet top would be quite complex to make. I used 2 pieces of 60 thou plastic card and sanded this down with wet and dry to get the right profile.
On to the detailing, I decided to be systematic. First I added access doors to the rear and roof hatches from 20 thou plastic card then side access doors from 10 thou plastic card. Cupolas above the driving positions were from 40 thou plasticard. Hinges were from plastic micro rod and I made catches from microstrip and micro rod in long sections that I could then cut to size. These WIP shots show the detailing in progress – there’s more than I thought when starting this project!

I painted the body in dark green, dry brushing with lighter green and using a section from the packaging for the windows. The chassis I painted black and dry brushed grey and light brown before fixing to the bodywork.

Overall I was pleased with the results – a good project for isolation. More episodes to follow!

Gaslands Geezers

Andy gets out of his car and walks.

Many, many, many years ago I bought some Platoon 20 armed civilians and SAS style figures. I can’t now remember what I bought them for, and they’ve been a small part of my metal mountain for a very long time. This range has changed hands a few times, but are now available from East Riding Miniatures. You can find the armed civilians here, and the SAS here.

Last year I got into Gaslands, and thought these might be useful as vehicle crew or aggressive bystanders.

I based them on 1p coins, built up the bases with 4Ground base render and undercoated them black. Paints are mostly Vallejo, with Army Painter washes. All bases were painted Grey Black and bare skin Medium Flesh.

First up are three ne’er-do-wells (top) in boiler suits and stocking masks (hence the ill-defined faces) a woman armed with a pistol, and two chaps one with a sawn-off shotgun and the other with an Uzi (or similar). The masks and hands were painted Brown Sand, the boiler suits Dark Prussian Blue or German Field Grey and boots black. Guns were, surprisingly, Gunmetal.

Next are a woman and a couple of men with handguns. These guy on the left has a German Cam. Med Brown jacket, grey T shirt and black trousers. The woman in the middle has a Grey Jacket and Dark Prussian Blue trousers. These guy on the right has a German Camouflage Black Brown jacket, white shirt and Army Painter Crystal Blue trousers washed with Blue Tone wash.

Another three figures, the guy on the left has a M3 “Grease Gun” SMG, and maybe a Flak Jacket. The trousers were Army Painter Crystal Blue with a Blue wash, shirt white and the flak jacket Brown Violet (which is green, go figure!). The guy in the centre just has a hand gun. His shirt is pale sand, trousers London Grey and jacket German Camouflage Black Brown.
The guy on the right is not from Platoon 20, I suspect he may be some sort of Sci-Fi figure of unknown manufacture, but I’ll treat him as (mostly) human and armed with a pump action shotgun. He has German Cam. Med Brown overalls with a dark tone wash.

Finally, the two SAS figures. I went with a camouflage pattern here, German field Grey base, with Flat Green, Mahogany Brown and Chocolate Brown patches. The Helmet and Flak Jackets were painted Brown Violet and the gas mask case German Camouflage Beige.

Death Race in the Land of Ice and Fire

John Lambert reports on a Christmas Gaslands race around the Icelandic tundra.

I’d watched a Top Gear Episode on Extreme Racing in Iceland and thought this would make a good Christmas Game for the club using the Gaslands Ruleset.

The ruleset is very flexible and I wanted to try a new direction where the vehicles were unarmed and the battle was between the drivers and the environment rather than the drivers shooting or battering each other into oblivion. This resulted in an interesting and enjoyable game.

The Vehicles
Each player was equipped with identical buggies with additional hull points to represent a strengthened chassis, Nitro packs to provide additional power to overcome some obstacles and driver skills taken from the Gaslands Refuelled list.

The Course
The course (seen above) consisted of a figure of eight plan on a 5’ square table. Drivers had to take on 5 challenges and could only move onto the next challenge when the previous one was completed successfully. These challenges were :-
1. The Wall
Drivers use nitro boost to shoot their buggies up the side of a lava cliff landing at the top.
2. Firewalk
Drivers carefully traverse a breaking earth crust over molten lava.
3. Boulder Slalom
Drivers pick their way through a Glacial Erratic boulder field
4. Pond Skater
Drivers aquaplane across an icy lake
5. Bog Snorkel
Drivers traverse a bog, hoping not to get bogged down before a quick sprint to the finish.

Victory Conditions
In the Gaslands rules there is a section on Audience votes. The idea is that the event is televised and the audience can vote for those straggling at the back of the game to keep their interest going until the end of the game. I decided to take this idea further so that the winner of the event was the player with the most audience votes, not necessarily the winner of the race.

Destiny Dice
As each challenge is attempted, the driver rolls a D6 dice and applies the result. This would determine success or failure and the number of audience votes received for both success and failure.

Skid Dice
Regular players will know that these are a feature of the game which allow you to shift gears whilst also having the potential to cause hazards. I used the Slide and Spin facings as necessary rolls to complete the Pond Skater challenge and to add additional audience votes to the Wall challenge.

The Event
Grid

Left to Right:- Stig Nonameson, Snorri Snorrosson, Saggi Knackersack, Snotti Stinkinson

There was a route choice around the solidified lava flow with Snorri (top) taking the Right hand option.

Snotti is first to take on the wall but loses control and collides with it first! Despite this set back, the wall is clear at the second attempt. This would prove to be the most difficult challenge and each driver pilfered a celebratory doughnut from Eric’s stash once they were over.

Stig was the last to make the top of the wall.

Eager to make up lost ground, the descent was overcooked and Stig crashed downwards!

The next challenge was the Firewalk with Saggi gingerly picking his way across.

Next up was the Geyser field. Fortunately all drivers avoided the hazard. With barely time to adjust, the boulder slalom was next with Snotti in the lead followed by Saggi. Snorri was closing on the leaders clearing the challenge with ease.

With two more challenges to go, the race was tightening up. Snotti was the first to the water feature but bottled it. Saggi failed to meet the far bank and had to be towed out by the rescue truck but Snorri skated across in style. For Saggi and Stig, their race would end at this point as both failed to clear the water in spectacular fashion.

With Snotti struggling to build up pace for a second crossing attempt, Snorri carefully picked his way through the Bog Snorkel challenge and crossed the finish line. It had been another Hare and Tortoise Death Race.